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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, UNITED STATES

Nikolai Fechin
MRS FECHIN AND DAUGHTER
JUMP TO LOT
22

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, UNITED STATES

Nikolai Fechin
MRS FECHIN AND DAUGHTER
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Russian Art

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London

Nikolai Fechin
1881-1955
MRS FECHIN AND DAUGHTER
signed in Latin and dated 25 l.r.
oil on canvas
88.1 by 80.6cm, 34 1/2 by 31 1/2 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Fenn Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Acquired by the father of the present owner directly from the above, circa 1970s

Exhibited

Montana, Montana Historical Society, A Centennial Exhibition, 15 June - 16 August 1981

Literature

Exhibition catalogue, A Centennial Exhibition, Montana Historical Society, 1981, p.36, illustrated
G.Tuluzakova, Nicolai Fechin, Sankt-Peterburg: Zolotoi Vek, 2007, p.105, illustrated
State Russian Museum (Palace Editions), Nicolai Fechin, St. Petersburg, 2011, p.25, illustrated
G.Tuluzakova, Nicolai Fechin, The Art and the Life. Fechin Art Reproductions, USA, 2012, p.276, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Fechin’s American period begins with his arrival in New York on August 1, 1923. He would leave again in 1927, but despite the brevity of his stay, Fechin’s New York period became one of the most productive and brilliant chapters of his émigré years. The depression and gloom that had developed over his previous five years in post-Revolutionary Russia transformed into an active desire to work. Jack Hunter, a major collector of Fechin’s work and one of those who helped to arrange the artist's immigration to the United States, describes in his memoirs visiting the artist to greet him in person a few days after he and his family had settled in, only to discover that Fechin had already completed a number of paintings (ref. An Eleven-Page Report Concerning Nicolai Fechin. Manuscript, 26 May 1959, Private archive, USA, p.8).

Fechin was immediately drawn to America’s blossoming art scene, taking part in exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, the Milch Gallery, the Grand Central Galleries, Arden Galleries, The New York National Academy of Design, Voss Galleries in Boston and The Institute of Art in Chicago. Fechin’s interest in landscape and still lifes was stimulated by summer trips to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and Southern California, but portraiture remained his principal genre. Despite the received wisdom that portrait painters work mainly according to commissions, Fechin was a portrait artist by instinct and would very rarely accept commissions while he lived in Russia. He liked to choose his own sitters – people who interested him, particularly creative people, including his students, friends and colleagues from the Kazan School of Art. Naturally, those close to him were frequently asked to pose, including his father, his wife Alexandra Nikolaevna and their daughter Eya, who was born in 1914.

In New York he tried as much as possible to preserve this accustomed manner of working and would frequently invite painters and artists to sit for him, both Russian émigrés and Americans. These portraits were invariably exhibited soon afterwards. He painted Alexandra Nikolaevna and Eya often, just as he had done while the family lived in Russia. Among his many studies and finished works, the double portraits of his wife and daughter hold a unique status. At least five double portraits are known to exist and of these, three were painted in New York: Mother and Child (1923), Summer (Portrait of Alexandra Fechin with Daughter Eya, 1924, fig.3), and the present lot - Mrs Fechin and Daughter (1925). These three works can be considered among the best paintings of Fechin’s American period. When Summer was submitted to the International Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1926, it was awarded a large silver medal.

The offered work is thought to be the last in this series of double portraits. It has remained in a private collection for decades and has been exhibited rarely – indeed, possibly only once, in the 1981 Montana exhibition. The composition is distinctive:  the still life in the foreground takes precedence over the figures behind; the depiction of the two sitters is fragmented, interrupted by the edge of the canvas, the table and samovar, and yet the composition is unified and conveys a sense of completeness. Fechin blends a still life with a genre scene but ultimately the painting remains a portrait. The complex technical elements are all executed superbly, from the combination of different painterly textures, the manner of conveying various different materials, the varying depictions of light, featuring highlights, reflections, and  transparency, the balance of static and dynamic, calculated and spontaneous. Mrs. Fechin and Daughter is a stunning work of an undisputed maestro.

We are grateful to Galina Tuluzakova, author of the 2007 monograph on the artist, for providing this catalogue note.

Important Russian Art

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London