Architectural Feature: The Fechin House

2018 NMAF Award Winner
For important historic buildings or sites that have had a lasting effect
in bringing together our community.

Nicolai Fechin, a famous Russian painter, immigrated to the United States in 1923, escaping from the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. In 1926, he found his way to Taos where, in 1927, he purchased a small adobe home that had been built in 1918. For the next 6 years, Fechin transformed the building.

He opened up the floor plan by removing the internal walls and then added on to the building on all four sides, resulting in a light-filled and spacious structure. Every aspect was lovingly detailed with his aesthetic vision and exquisite craftsmanship; from the graceful, sculptural shapes of the fireplaces to the surfaces of the woodwork throughout the home, adzed to create undulating surfaces that play with the light; from the ornately carved furniture, with the hardware creatively incorporated into the designs, to the beautifully designed and patinated light fixtures. Banks of large windows, designed by Fechin and made in Pennsylvania, were created with rolled glass that dance in the Taos sunshine. The plaster in the downstairs portion of the home is another Fechin creation, designed to be the most neutral color on which to display his beautiful paintings.  To achieve the color, he had “tierra blanca” mixed into the adobe and then bound it with sweet milk. All the wood surfaces were hand-tinted and waxed to create a uniformly soft glow.

His daughter, Eya Fechin, who spent her teen years in the house, lovingly called it “a Russian house made of New Mexico mud”.   He cleverly and playfully incorporated design elements from Siberia and Russia with Native American themes and Hispanic cultural elements found here locally.

The home remains intact as it was when he left Taos in 1933 following a divorce.

The house and his studio are now home to the Taos Art Museum. The museum serves the community in many ways, hosting various community events (many free to the public) such as lectures, concerts, poetry readings, art demonstrations, painting workshops, etc.  The gardens are a favorite gathering place for locals and tourists, a peaceful and quiet respite to enjoy the Taos weather.  The home also offers rotating exhibitions that feature Taos artists from the Taos Society of Artists through the Taos Moderns while the Studio features contemporary Taos artists both in exhibitions and in “meet the artist” interactions with the community.

Photos courtesy of the Taos Art Museum

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