The Taos Art Museum at Fechin House is one of the more popular museums in town, with good reason. The beauty of the house itself, combined with its large collection of early 20th century Taos artists, makes it a must-visit for locals and visitors.
The Fechin house was built upon an existing adobe over a period of six years, from 1927-1933, by world-renowned Russian artist Nicolai Fechin. The house astounds most first time visitors, not only for its beauty, but also for the sheer amount of work that went into it. There are intricate woodcarvings everywhere, from doors to chairs, cupboards to radiator screens, and columns to benches. Fechin’s mastery of carving reflects his insatiable interest in other cultures – there are Russian, Native American, and Spanish motifs in his work, alongside elements from cultures all over the world.
The wood throughout the house and studio has the same warm, luminous quality that his paintings are famous for, and the large windows bring intense light and Taos views into the interior. The main floor of the house features the dining and living spaces, with beautiful custom fireplaces, while the upstairs features the sun room, referred to by museum staff as the “Oh, wow,” room, which is what most visitors (including myself) say when they first see it. Two people that I spoke with while on my visit both expressed a desire to live in this house – it’s that beautiful.
The museum normally exhibits a collection of various Taos artists, but the day I visited afforded the opportunity to view an exclusive collection of Fechin’s work, acquired from museums and private collections around the world. Fechin, born and raised in Russia, emigrated to the United States in 1923. He found great success as a portrait artist in New York City, but a case of tuberculosis and the encouragement of friends brought him to the arid climate of Taos. It was here that he found what he considered to be his American home. Sadly, he would only live here for a brief period, as his wife Alexandra divorced him and stayed in the home he built for the family. While Alexandra retained ownership of the home until her death in 1983, it ended up sitting vacant for several decades; but their daughter Eya returned in the 1970s, and spearheaded a restoration effort that brought the house back to life.
After the tour of the home and Fechin’s studio, I settled at a table with a shady umbrella on the back patio. The surrounding gardens, lush with flowers and expanses of green grass, provided a cool oasis from the summer heat. I sat for some time, enjoying the lovely day and chatting with other visitors. The museum has begun offering coffee, sun tea, and a chessboard on Sundays from 10-1, to encourage visitors to sit for a spell. It’s a great way to bring some liveliness and community interaction to an environment that can be (at least viewed as) staid and solitary.
The current exhibition, Intimate and International: The Art of Nicolai Fechin, will be on display now until September 21, 2014. Visit http://www.taosartmuseum.org for more information.
A quarter mile north of Taos Plaza, on Paseo del Pueblo Norte, on the grounds of the Fechin Inn.
Summer hours (May 1 – October 31):
Tuesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM
Winter hours (November 1 – April 30):
Tuesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 4 PM