Nicholai Fechin (1881-1955), Mabel Dodge Luhan, 1927; oil on canvas; Courtesy American Museum for Western Art—The Anschutz Collection, Denver, Colorado. Photograph by William J. O'Connor
Russian émigré artist Nicolai Fechin’s 1927 move to Taos from New York was precipitated by a diagnosis of tuberculosis. Well-known for his powerful portraits and his travels to Siberia and the Caucasus to paint landscapes and indigenous peoples, he felt at home in the Taos mountains and was inspired by the Pueblo Indians. Fechin’s portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan as “the regent of Taos” is in a saturated palette; its flashing impressionist strokes render her as a powerful force. With a Pueblo woman’s haircut and adorned with turquoise jewelry, Mabel is seated in a Florentine chair and depicted as a confident and assertive woman. This is in marked contrast to Blanche’s romanticized portrait of her in Florence, and the wide-eyed Muse of her New York persona.