Gaze ‘Through the Eyes of Fechin’

The home of a renaissance man

By Tamra Testerman

After an invigorating morning on the slopes of the Taos Ski Valley, or a high alpine hike, the day may call for some indoor culture, and good local food conveniently close to your destination. Taos is home to many galleries, museums and historic sites, all within an easy drive from the center of town. 

A favorite for visitors from around the world is Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, 227 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte. The Fechin House, built by Russian artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) is said to be his love for his family made manifest in art. The 4,000 square-foot, asymmetrical adobe Pueblo and Mission Revival house, with 24-inch walls, is a breathtaking example of Southwest architecture and is an epochal landmark in the architectural landscape of Taos. Fechin’s mastery of metalwork, sculpture, wood carving, painting and drawing is never more clear than in the house that Fechin built.

The current exhibition, “Through the Eyes of Fechin” features paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs from private collections not exhibited before in the same space.

Courtesy Taos Art Museum at Fechin House

Taos Art Museum’s executive director Christy Coleman said “this exhibition will provide a unique opportunity to experience Fechin’s world through his keen eye.” Winter visitors can experience this once in a lifetime assemblage of Nicolai Fechin’s work until Jan. 9, 2022. There is also a lovely gift shop in the museum with an eclectic collection of pottery, jewelry, textiles, prints, photographs and more.

It may not be possible to capture all the museum has to offer in one afternoon visit, or time to do a docent tour with one of the knowledgeable museum volunteers on hand to lead.

But if there were one or two things you should not miss, what would
they be?

‘Discovery is a word I use a lot when talking about Fechin’s work because one can visit the Fechin House a hundred times and notice something new every time,” she said.

Courtesy Taos Art Museum at Fechin House

“For instance, if you take time to look at any of the 51 doors throughout the Fechin House – all hand-carved by Fechin – you’re bound to discover interesting elements. You may notice a hint of color painted into a carving on a door, or what appears to be a simple door with no ornamentation has tiny carvings along the edge. At first glance, a set of doors may appear to have been carved with symmetrical design elements. Still, as you look more closely, you may discover that Fechin incorporated asymmetry into the balanced design.”

Courtesy Taos Art Museum at Fechin House

“Harmony and balance are a common theme of Fechin’s work. Throughout the Fechin House, one can discover Russian, Native American, and Spanish motifs such as radiator covers carved in a Navajo Lightning pattern, small windows evocative of those found in Russian monasteries, and intricate carvings depicting elements from Spanish frieze patterns. Thus, three different cultures integrated to achieve Fechin’s unique style.”

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Finding a spot for a quick nosh or full lunch is within striking distance of the Fechin House. Coleman mentioned a few of her favorite Taos gems to be found minutes from the museum, within walking distance or a short drive by car.

Coleman suggests a local bakery, which is down the road from the museum and walking distance.

“For lunch, I love Wild Leaven Bakery at 216 Paso del Pueblo Norte for a quick bowl of hot homemade soup and freshly baked bread. 

She also recommended a couple of Taoseño favorite spots for lunch: Orlando’s at 1114 Don Juan Valdez Lane “for their chili Rellenos, and Manzanita Market off the historic Taos Plaza for their warm turkey and fig jam sandwich” adding that they were two of her favorites.

Executive director Coleman said deciding which two things to see in the Taos Art Museum is challenging, there is so much to explore.

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“Nicolai Fechin was a true renaissance man, a master of everything from drawing and painting to sculpture and photography, and it’s all spectacular. However, perhaps his pièce de résistance is the magnificent Fechin House, which he crafted by hand over five short years. So, I’d like to do a workaround to the question and say the Fechin House is the one “object” to see and highlight some of the beautiful things visitors can discover as they go through the house,” she said.

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