Born in Kazan, Russia on Nov. 28, 1881, Nicolai Fechin was raised in the dark Volga forest amidst the wild Tartar tribes. Fechin's early art training came from his father who was a poor wood and metal craftsman. At age 13 he received a scholarship to the Kazan Art School (which was founded by his grandfather) and at age 19 entered the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg where he was greatly influenced by Ilya Repin.
After graduating in 1909, he taught at the Kazan Art School. Following several years of deprivation during the Bolshevik Revolution and WWI, he immigrated to America with his wife and baby daughter in 1923. Fechin struggled for a meager existence in NYC doing portraits and teaching until his work was discovered by local galleries.
Sick with tuberculosis, he moved to Taos, NM in 1926. While there, he did his finest work and became nationally known as a painter of Indians, Mexicans, and cowboys. He also created impressionistic wood sculpture. At the height of his career, marital problems and ultimate divorce necessitated his move from Taos.
In 1936 he settled in Santa Monica, CA and began an art school. An avid supporter of modern art, Fechin was a superb technician who often used a palette knife to apply his oils. His bold, dramatic, and brilliantly colored canvases rank him among the giants in American art.
He died at his home in Santa Monica on Oct. 5, 1955.