2/23/2013

Self Portraits: Nicolai Fechin

Self Portrait oil on canvas 1920

  Self Portrait oil on canvas

Self Portrait charcoal

Nicolia Fechin (1881-1955)  immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1923, eventually settling in Taos, New Mexico. The bravura of his brushwork and the incisive accuracy of the line in his drawings can make an artist want to throw up her hands and say, "Why bother?" Then again, bravura isn't everything, is it? Think of Corot, Morandi Gwen John, and countless others whose quieter work has less flash but a deeply emotional appeal. 

It might sound as though I don't like Fechin. Totally untrue! I once visited the Fechin museum in Taos, and was bowled over by the wild, nervous energy and brilliant color of his best work, as well as his virtuosity.  The younger self portrait shows him at his impetuous best. The second, later self portrait in oil seems surprisingly tame, reminding me of a Norman Rockwell. 

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