Portrait of a Girl from the Taos Tribe - Russian impressionism museum
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Portrait of a Girl from the Taos Tribe, 1930

Nicolai Fechin

Oil on canvas

Private collection, Moscow

The six years that Fechin spent in the city of Taos, are considered to be his most fruitful after emigration. Here, Fechin built himself a mudbrick house based on his own design, in which he combined Indian and Russian architectural traditions. At this time he became interested in the culture and life of the Indians and Mexicans around him. The artist captured their images in a variety of portraits. The theme was not particularly new: some American artists specialised in ethnographic exoticism, but the images they created were fairly hackneyed, and the techniques were сommonplace. Fechin breathed new life into these topics. The artist painted Indians in an impressionistic style, bordering on abstract expressionism. But most importantly, his models have individuality — these are proper portraits.

Fechin created many portraits of Indian women and girls in Taos. Such paintings resonated with the audience; they were valued by West Coast collectors. Fechin painted nameless girls in national dress, with objects of local culture or fruit in their hands. These accessories, like the lemon on the “Portrait of a Taos Girl,” were most often needed to create pleasing composition. It is known that in those years the artists paid the Taoist Indians 25 cents per hour to pose for them, as well as for housework and gardening.