Fact 1: An orphan with living parentsThe father of the future artist, Ivan Aleksandrovich Fechin, was a woodcarver and had his workshop where iconostases were made and gilded. Nicolai began to paint from an early age and began to help his father in his work very early.
Soon his father left Kazan, and Kolya Fechin was left alone. By this time, he had already been admitted to the Kazan Art School. The teenager lived in poverty and was received rare help from his relatives.
Fact 2: A student who became a teacherNikolai Fechin studied at the Kazan Art School from 1895 to 1900. Ten years later, immediately after graduating from the Higher Art School at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, he returned to Kazan, to his native school. Here he became a teacher of painting and drawing.
Numerous memories of Fechin’s students evidence that he was a brilliant teacher who raised the teaching in the institution to a new level. He continued to work at the Kazan school until his departure from the country.
In the 1930s, the school was transformed into the Kazan Art School, and in 2006 the school was named after N. I. Fechin
Kazan, Khazine National Art Gallery
Fact 3: Fechin cut out sketches and “sculpted” paintingsAs a child, Nikolai Fechin mastered woodcarving in his father’s studio. The famous 1920 self-portrait depicts the artist in his studio against the backdrop of home-made furniture. Sometimes he carved figurines of wood as sketches for future paintings. This was the case, for example, when creating the Slaughterhouse large-scale painting.
Another technique of the artist was working with absorbent casein primer. "He made casein glue himself of cottage cheese with ammonia and glycerin" (G. G. Medvedev). Such primer made the paintings matte, without glare.
Fact 4: A native of Kazan who conquered the worldIn the 1910s, Niсolai Feсhin did not limit himself to teaching, he actively participated in exhibitions, including international ones. His work was enthusiastically received by the European and American public and critics, there appeared his fans and regular customers. The artist became famous primarily as a portrait painter.
The collector William Stimmel had invited Fechin to the United States then, but he refused because of the lack of the necessary funds and the fact that he did not know the language.
Fact 5: The favourite model, EyaOne of the students of Nikolai Fechin at the Kazan Art School was the daughter of its first director, Alexandra Belkovich. When Fechin made contacts with Europe, he needed help in correspondence, as the artist did not speak languages. Alexandra knew French and became his secretary. In 1913, Nikolai Fechin married Alexandra Belkovich, a year later they had a daughter.
Fact 6: He welcomed the first revolution, criticized the second, fled from the thirdFechin, who was then studying at the Academy of Arts, accepted the revolution of 1905 with enthusiasm. He took part in student protests, and then wrote sketches for his paintings Leaving the Factory, 1905 at the Factory, Shooting, Accidental Victim. The two latter were banned from being shown at the exhibition of student works at the Academy.
The results of the third one, the October revolution forced the artist to look for ways to the West, although before that he had refused offers to work in the United States.
Fact 7: Fechin discovered Leniniana in paintingAfter the October revolution, Nicolai Fechin painted portraits of Karl Marx, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Leon Trotsky, but primarily Lenin, at the request of the political department of the Red Army.
This canvas, created by the artist in 1918 from a photography, became the very first pictorial portrait of the leader of the revolution. In Soviet times, the championship was attributed to Fechin’s fellow student at the Academy of Arts, Isaac Brodsky for his V. I. Lenin and the Manifestation painting (1919).
Fact 8: The artist went to the USA “on a duty trip”During the civil war, the Fechin family almost lived on the front line. Typhus raged (the artist’s father died of this disease in 1919), then famine began in the Volga region. The Kazan school was not heated, there were no good paints. But at the same time, some of Nicolai Ivanovich’s students got in power, and they helped their teacher as best as they could. In 1920, Nikolai Fechin was elected head teacher of the Kazan State Free Art Workshops. There is evidence that the issue of his move to Moscow was resolved at the highest level. However, the artist could not work as before.
"I felt like I was wasting my creative energy uselessly day after day, since art was only used for propaganda purposes," he wrote.
Fact 9: The educator and expat who didn’t know the languageStudents of the Kazan Art School said that Nicolai Ivanovich was laconic in the classroom, he showed more than explained. In America, Fechin continued to teach and hardly changed his style of communication with students.
Fact 10: Fechin built a Russian house on Indian groundIn 1925, Nicolai Fechin fell ill with tuberculosis, and in order to change the climate, the family moved to Taos, a town in New Mexico. Here Nicolai Ivanovich began building a house. He has been working on it for six years as an architect, designer, woodcarver, carpenter. Everything in the house, from furniture and carved columns to caskets and mirror frames, is made by his hands.
Indeed, Alexandra Fechina wrote the Steps to the Past book and published it in 1937, but this did not bring her either fame or funds. She continued to own the house built by her husband until her death in 1983.
Today, Nicolai Fechin’s house in Taos is included in the list of US National Historic Monuments. The building houses the Taos Museum of Art
Fact 11: Nicolai Fechin’s last journey was to his homelandAfter the divorce, Nicolai Fechin left for New York with his daughter, then they moved to Hollywood and bought a large house there. When Eya got married and left her father, he moved to a smaller studio in Santa Monica. In the second half of the 1930s, Fechin travelled a lot: he visited Mexico, then he went to the Far East, to Bali and Japan. He spent the rest of his life in California.
According to his will, in 1976, the ashes of Nicolai Fechin were reburied in Kazan.