Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955)
Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955)

Indian Boy with Fan

Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955)
Indian Boy with Fan
signed 'N. Fechin' (lower right)
oil on canvas
16 x 13 in. (40.6 x 33 cm.)
The artist.
Mr. and Mrs. Calkins, acquired from the above.
Richard Gordon Matzene, Ponca City, Oklahoma, acquired from the above, by 1940.
F.E. Rice, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, acquired from the above, 1941.
By descent to the present owner.
Dubuque, Iowa, Dubuque Museum of Art, September 2012-August 2017, on loan.

Lot Essay

From his earliest days as a young student in Russia, Nicolai Fechin was captivated by portrait painting. The widely varied faces of the people he encountered in his native Russia would provide the foundation for a storied career that spread across the globe. Like the great Ashcan artist and teacher, Robert Henri, Fechin chose his sitters based on the vitality and character they emanated. He was never content with merely capturing a likeness on canvas, but rather strove to portray a dignity and inner spirit of each sitter, whether a Russian peasant, a New York member of society, a Balinese dancer or the artist's most revered subject, the American Indian.

The present work, as well as Lot 24, are superb examples of Fechin's work during his Taos, New Mexico period, combining a predilection for modern art while simultaneously capturing an intimate glimpse into the region's Native American life. Mary N. Balcomb writes, "Fechin's Taos portraits are masterfully executed, timeless. Each is a highly individualized study, yet possessing a generalization or universal quality which evokes memories and associations that relate to all people everywhere." (Nicolai Fechin, San Cristobal, New Mexico, 1999, p. 78) This effect is achieved through Fechin's aggressive yet elegant balance of color, line and form, which creates an overall harmonious composition. Fechin wrote of the importance of harmony within his work: "The artist must not forget that he is dealing with the entire canvas, and not with only one section of it. Regardless of what else he sets out to paint, the problem in his work remains one and the same: with originality, to fill in his canvas and make of it an organic whole. There must not be any particularly favored spot in the painting. It must be remembered that one false note in a symphony orchestra disrupts the harmony of the whole." (as quoted in Nicolai Fechin, p. 159)

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