Frye Art Museum

photo by Jill Berarducci

Seattle, Washington



The Russian Connection


The Frye Art Museum is fortunate to own a significant collection of paintings, pastels, and drawings by three 20th century émigré Russian masters whose work continues to have resonance with the American public. This exhibition, entitled The Russian Connection, features the work of Nicolai Fechin, dean of the Russian-American artists, and his contemporaries. The Frye brings out selections from this popular collection every few years, and this installation will include drawings and pastels that have not been on view for some time. (left: Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), Albidia, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches)

Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) was born in Kazan, a city on the Volga River rich with the heritage of Russian and Mongol cultures. His artistic talent was recognized early, and he entered the Imperial Academy at St. Petersburg in 1900. Fechin was profoundly influenced by his teacher Ilya Repin (1844-1930), Russia's preeminent realist painter. Fechin's work was already known in the United States when he immigrated in 1923; after sojourns in New York City and Taos, New Mexico, he settled in Los Angeles.

Although Fechin never lived in the Puget Sound area, his approach and techniques were vigorously expounded in the demonstrations and workshops of one of his disciples, Sergei Bongart (1918-1985). A native of Kiev, Bongart came to the United States in 1948, after working in Prague, Vienna, and Munich. A number of Seattle-area artists and teachers studied with Bongart, keeping alive the free and spontaneous adaptation of impressionism pioneered by Fechin.

Taos was home of another expatriate Russian painter, Leon Gaspard (1882-1964), who brought with him a style as dashing as Fechin's. Gaspard not only painted views of the New World but continued to create colorful images based on memories of his homeland.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Frye Art Museum.


Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2001 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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