Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Art Review - Paintings by Nicolai Fechin at the National Cowboy Museum

It's always a joy to see works by Nicolai Fechin, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City has five of them on display. These are all paintings that I was not familiar with, so it was extra special.

Painting photos by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

"The Stranger" • Nicolai Fechin • Oil on Canvas • 1936

I initially assumed that the title of this painting was referring to the central figure, but look closer at the window. At first glance, I didn't even notice the sinister looking figure half hidden in the darkness. The cooler tones within the window-framed figure draw attention to it, and it doesn't stay hidden for long, raising questions regarding its purpose and story.

Anyone know the story behind this painting? I've searched and been unable to discover anything.

"El Cargador (The Porter)" • Nicolai Fechin • Oil on Canvas • 1936

This piece has the kind of spontaneous and energetic brushwork that is so typical of Fechin's work, and yet always thrilling. Even though the face and hands are more rendered than the rest of the painting, they don't feel separate or overworked. It's that imbalance of finish that adds so much excitement.


Notice the canvas showing through the sparse brushwork of the legs in comparison to the more refined look and detail within the eyes and the rings of the hand. Everything feels dashed in quickly, and yet perfectly accurate.

"Cow and Aspens" • Nicolai Fechin • Oil on Canvas


Here, the textural quality of the paint holds as much character as the subject it depicts. The cow is quickly evident, due to its strong dark shapes, but it is the trees beyond that bring the energy and interest to the painting through both color and texture.

I absolutely love this piece.

"Mr. Gorson • Nicolai Fechin • Oil on Canvas • Before 1933

This is the largest piece in the collection, and much more conservative in its execution. Even so, that dynamic brushwork comes through. Notice the absolute adherence to shape throughout the painting. There is never any point where Fechin blends his paint on the canvas. Gradients are achieved solely through the use of multiple shapes and values.

The portrait depicts Lithuanian-born painter Aaron H. Gorson.

"Joe" • Nicolai Fechin • Oil on canvas • 1930

Pay close attention to the edges within Fechin's paintings. As I mentioned in the previous work, they are never softened by blending them on the canvas. Softer edges are achieved by either close value changes, or through the use of broken color, where paint scumbles along the edge of a shape, creating a tattered effect.

This painting may depict Little Joe Gomez, a member of Taos Pueblo and a frequent model for Taos artists.

 

© Patrick and Kimberly Saunders, Patrick Saunders Fine Arts, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs and/or videos, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.





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