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

Indian Girl in Blue Dress

Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955)
Indian Girl in Blue Dress
bears signature 'N. Fechin' (lower right)
oil on canvas laid down on masonite
17 5/8 x 14 ½ in. (44.8 x 36.8 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

The present work and Lot 23 were acquired in 1941 by F. Edgar ‘F.E.’ Rice, an executive at Phillips Petroleum who played an important role in the early development of that company and of the energy industry as a whole. Rice was a pioneer in his field, with his work in liquified petroleum gas proving seminal to widespread use of the product in the form of propane or butane to heat homes and power cooking appliances. A long-time Phillips employee, Rice eventually established himself as Vice President and contributed significantly to Phillips Petroleum’s status as an international leader.

Much like Phillips Petroleum’s founder, Frank Phillips, Rice was an active collector of Western American Art at the turn of the century. In addition to these two paintings by Fechin, his collection also included a number of works by Thomas Moran. Corresponding about the present lots, Rice wrote to the works’ previous owner Gordon Matzene, “Now the Feshins [sic] are something different. I have them hanging in my office and like them very much. I would be glad to buy them at anything like a figure I could pay. If you have four others perhaps you can persuade yourself to sell me these two. I would certainly appreciate it.” (unpublished letter, dated 22 July 1940) Interestingly, when there was a delay in payment, Matzene wrote to Rice proposing that he might offer the works instead to Phillips, who was responsible for the creation of the Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville, Oklahoma. However, Rice retained the paintings, and they have descended in his family ever since.

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