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    Nicolai Fechin (Russian/American, 1881-1955)
    Russian Girl
    Oil on canvas laid on masonite
    9-1/8 x 6-5/8 inches (23.2 x 16.8 cm)
    Signed lower right: N Fechin

    The artist;
    Richard Gordon Matzene, acquired from the above;
    Private collection, Oklahoma, acquired from the above;
    Private collection, Arizona, by descent.

    Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, Arizona, "Arizona Collects," February 7-April 19, 2004.

    With her tilted head and inviting look, electric red blouse, and flower-dotted babushka actively dissolving into the white ground behind her, Russian Girl is a superb example of the humanistic and expressionistic portraiture that distinguished Nicolai Fechin within the Taos art colony. A tour de force of technique, the painting exemplifies his fascination with the push-pull between calm and energy, individual brushstrokes and holistic composition, and sitter and background. Fechin's exposure to Impressionism on a trip to Paris in 1910 brightened his palette, loosened his brushwork, and reinforced his use of the palette knife as a tool for achieving rich impasto. After moving to Taos in 1927, he further animated his paintings by juxtaposing pigments; applying them rapidly with his thumb, a dry brush, and a palette knife; and glazing (layering) them to create a sparkling watercolor effect. In Russian Girl, wild slashes of reds, pinks, orange-browns, and whites give rise to the soft, rosy face of the sitter, calmly materializing out of the abstract background. Fechin intentionally blurs her facial features to allow the viewer to interpret her psyche. Indeed, Russian Girl is as much about the viewing experience as the sitter herself: the eye delights in studying single colors and brushstrokes, the beauty of the girl's face, and finally the composition as a whole.

    The subject of a girl wearing a babushka signifies the strong influence of Fechin's homeland on his art, even after emigrating from Russia to New York in 1923 and settling in Taos in 1927. Although Taos offered Fechin new ethnic subjects -- the Pueblo Indians -- whose ceremonial customs and hardworking, noble character reminded him of the Cheremiss and Mordva peasants he had painted for decades back home, he continued to draw inspiration from Russian art: from the 1920s through the 1940s, he painted variations on the theme of the Russian girl in a headscarf -- some blond and blue-eyed, others brunette, some wearing the identical flowered babushka featured in Russian Girl -- and he also created Russian-style sculpture, furniture, and architectural elements. Fechin chose to remain on the periphery of the Taos School, best communicating his personality through the faces of his sitters and the liveliness of his technique.

    The original owner of Russian Girl, Richard Gordon Matzene was a successful photographer and art dealer with studios in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Matzene created portraits for Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, the Royal Family of Denmark, Winston Churchill, Charles Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, and numerous other dignitaries and celebrities. Throughout his life, he completed eight trips around the world and was particularly drawn to the Far East. On one such trip, he was forced to hide in a friend's basement during the China Boxer Rebellion, later purchasing several antiquities directly from the imperial palace. Matzene was also invited to Nepal to take several royal portraits, despite the country's being closed to outsiders. During the mid-1920s, he settled in Ponca City, Oklahoma, where he lived until his death in 1950. Here, he established himself as an art and antiquities dealer, befriending Birger Sandzén and Nicolai Fechin, as well as many other Taos School artists. Upon his death, Matzene donated his art collection to the Ponca City Library, whose staff we would like to thank for providing these biographical details.

    More information about Nicolai Fechin, also known as Fechin, Nicolai, Nicolai Fechin.

    Condition Report*: There appears to be a few small areas of light craquelure where paint is thicker; pinholes in corners; under UV exam, there appears to be a few thin lines of inpainting in upper right quadrant to address craquelure and a couple tiny lines in lower left quadrant that slightly fluoresce. Framed Dimensions 15.75 X 13 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    16th Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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