Painting of the Month: Still Life – Kettle #2 by Nicolai Fechin

Let’s take a look at a still life this month, Still Life – Kettle #2 by Nicolai Fechin. Still lifes don’t usually captivate me as a great landscape or portrait painting might. But this one by Fechin is an exception. It’s a wonderful and complex display of color and technique.

Nicolai Fechin, Still Life - Kettle #2
Nicolai Fechin, Still Life – Kettle #2

(Click here to download a high-resolution photo of the painting.)

Brief details about the painting:

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 24 x 20 Inches
  • Completed: Unknown
  • Current Location and Ownership: Unknown

Your Thoughts?

Use this as an opportunity to test your ability to analyze master paintings. In the comments below, share what you think are the top 3 most important aspects of the painting. These could relate to areas such as composition, color, value, progress, brushwork, subject, or symbolism. Once you have done that, you can compare your thoughts with my own in the drop-down below.

Click here to see my thoughts.

  • The light orange background provides contrast for the dark focal point around the middle. There’s also a strong contrast in color temperature: warm oranges and yellows against cool blues and purples.

Tip: It’s important to understand the role of the background in your painting. It might not command attention, but without it, your focal point cannot shine. The background is to the focal point as the bass guitarist is to the lead guitarist. They are important in different ways and they are stronger together than as apart.

  • Crisp highlights and small bursts of saturated color help reiterate the focal point. They also contrast nicely against the dark blues and purples.
  • Painting reflective objects is all about getting the highlights right. Keep them sharp and precise. In most cases, it’s best to paint the highlights last. Set the stage for your highlights. The main exception would be if you were painting in watercolors, in which case you typically start with the highlights and work back to the darks.
  • Notice the dry brushwork and scumbling, particularly around the background. This plays well against the relatively smooth and refined brushwork used around the focal point.

10 thoughts on “Painting of the Month: Still Life – Kettle #2 by Nicolai Fechin”

  1. Love the color composition… the interplay of complementary colors ie. the blues and purples with the orange and yellow. .. cool vs warm at the same time Love the way the items he paints are arranged to lead your eye through the painting in a triangular set up.counterbalanced by the upper orange triangle of the draping and the lower triangle of the off white surface… thank you for introducing me to this artist… one of my favorites… love his portraits!!

  2. I love the use of the lines drawing your eyes to the tea pot – the positioning of the vases and jars as well as the “prints” in the background material. His reflections in the tea pot also draw your eyes to it.
    I found myself looking all over the painting continually and always coming back to the tea pot in the middle.

  3. It is nearly impossible to escape this painting as the “V” draping, the cream handle, the round shapes (even the reflection on the tea kettle) imprison the eye of the viewer.
    Although intricately thought out and executed through its shapes, values, I find it disturbing.

  4. The first thing that struck me as I looked at this painting was the exquisite variety of textures the artist has created. That, in combination with the complementary blue and orange dominant colors, make it a lush and compelling image. The second thing that struck me was the highlights and reflected light on the curved surfaces of the kettle and pots’ handles and bodies. In the square reflection on the kettle, there is almost a mini-portrait of the room in which this still-life is situated, so you get a sense of space behind and to the left of the viewer. The pansies on the left (which you almost miss when you first look) pick up the dominant colors in the painting, and also add an element of time — they are fresh living things, which are not wilted or static.

  5. I am blown away by the colour and texture in this painting.
    It is very mesmerising, and each time you go back for another look you are rewarded by seeing something you missed first time round.
    But, being honest, something just jars with me a little. Is it part of a slightly larger painting with maybe a couple of inches more of the painting on the left hand side of the picture?
    I have not heard of Nicolai Fechin before, so will enjoy looking at some of his other paintings. Thank you!

  6. Initially, I was fascinated by the texture of the fabric, as if it was telling the story of the painting. Then I was mesmerized by the reflective quality he accomplished in the teapot, I studied it for a long time. Overall, the intensity of all the colors is amazing.
    I am on my way to see his other works!

  7. The kettle is definitely the focal point, (even without the title), as the whole painting has leading lines towards it from both the top, sides and bottom. I love the complementary palette, the white of the canvas left to depict light and shine, in sharp contrast with the dark. It is a beautiful painting with gorgeous textures throughout, contrasted with the smoothness of the handle and the little splashes of red. Thank you for sharing, Dan.

  8. When this popped up it immediately hooked me. I didn’t cheat to see what you said before commenting (which I am sometimes guilty of) and three key words resonated immediately. They are:
    TEXTURE – created by deliberate arrangement of seemingly unrelated objects to create a sense of chaos in order to focus on the kettle. Varied brushwork used to make some of these ambiguous and lacking detail in order to sharpen the impact of the main event.
    COLOUR. – rich, darkly saturated, complementaries dominating but tiny additions of primaries injected to deliberately jar the eye.
    FORM – sharp linear, textured folds to emphasis the smooth voluptuous roundness of most of the objects, kettle, jars, beads and pansy leaves. Pinpoints of light expertly used confirm the solidity of otherwise ambiguous shapes.

    In short, I love it’s uncompromising contrast and assault on the eye. Thanks for flagging Fechin up, although I have to say his other works (still life and portraits) do not grab me in the way this painting does. I have unsuccessfully experimented with the “Fechin” technique of painting a landscape on a white ground, with texture deliberately created by ‘missed’ areas (which was highlighted the other day) but I don’t see it in play here.

  9. I agree with and appreciate what others have commented about the Color, Composition and Texture of this painting.

    Lately I have been trying to focus on is Value. In this painting there is such an interesting interplay with values that help give it a three dimensional appearance. It’s interesting how the teapot merges into other dark shapes in some areas that the edges get lost. So the dark shapes really do merge together. I hope we can talk more about that.

    Like I have heard before, Value does all the work, but Color gets all the credit.


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