Nicolai Fechin Quotes on Art


Armand Cabrera
Born in Russia, Nicolai Fechin was Ilya Repins greatest student. Fechin immigrated to the United States in 1923 with the help of W.S. Stimmel, one of his American collectors.  The quotes are from the two monographs listed in the bibliography.

Artists and critics compete with Each other in their endeavors to destroy the traditional approach to the fundamental principles required for the careful technical execution of any work. In their mad pursuit of novelty, they do not have enough time for a conscientious development of their ideas and, as a result, they have had to make legitimate that which I would call “illiteracy” in the arts. Such an attitude in the art of our day is harmful not so much in itself, but in that it is used by intellectuals, by means of the written word, to influence the unprepared mind of the student. Youth is infected with a careless and irresponsible attitude toward the execution of work, with a sense of easy attainment, seeking to attract attention by shallow-minded novelties instead of real innovations and discrimination.

Any standardization is negative in its meaning. If conventional shades and colors are used, the ability to see them in reality is lost. It is essential that the artist should regard every new painting as an entirely special world of color, light, form and line. Every new canvas is a completely new challenge.

Fine painting is simply a matter of putting the right colors in the right places on canvas.

As a matter of fact an artist has to deal with only three basic colors: red, blue, yellow (all the rest are combinations of these fundamental colors). Everyone knows this, but few pay attention to the fact. Thus the first step for the artist to learn to see these primary colors and to distinguish them separately one from the other.

Concept or rendition: which is more important? That is a basic question in art. In the first case it is frequently said: “Not badly conceived but poorly executed!” Such evaluation is no credit to an artist. On the contrary, fine workmanship makes one forgive even triviality. In such cases it is said: “Stupid, but devilishly well executed!” This is a common rule. A high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominate place in art. The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value.

No one can teach you how to paint and how to draw except you yourself. You cannot learn how to paint by watching a well-trained master painting, until you yourself, have learned how to paint with some understanding first. Only by the path of much practice and experience can mature results be reached.


Nicolai Fechin
Harold McCracken
Hammer Galleries 1961

Nicolai Fechin
Mary Balcomb

Northland Press 1975