Thursday, November 21, 2013

Balcomb, Fechin, Reese, Bongart

Nicholai Fechin....

....Wm. F. Reese and Sergei Bongart were painters whose standing in the current art world were greatly enhanced by the labor and inspiration of Mary Balcomb, the author of definitive books on each of them.

It was through unknown forces of grace that I have been friends with Mary and her husband, Robert 'Sam' Balcomb for over two decades.  Through frequent trips to their home...usually ending in something bubbly from a bottle....I found out what remarkable people each of them is.

Robert 'Sam' is probably the finest portrait photographer I have ever known.  Having been a photographer myself and taught it for a while, I can say that without reservation.  He is a true and pure lens artist and recently published a book 'Me and Mortensen', about his own work and his experiences with renowned photographer William Mortensen.   Robert also was asked to be part of the  portrait photography collection at the University Museum in Tucson where his pieces are in the archives of significant American photographers. 

Mary was (she died last Spring) an architect, designer, etcher, painter, author and probably more other things than I ever will know, and she did them all with humility and love.  Both she and 'Sam' were, and are, gifts to this world.

One of the things I liked to do when visiting was to pull out some of their art books. My favorite was the proposal for the Fechin book.  In those days everything was 'cut and paste' and the Fechin mock up is one of those.  Many images and writings did not make the final publication but I wish they had as they add such a depth of understanding of the artist.  I have included a couple of illustrations that did not 'make it' but show the final works of Fechin with the source material he worked from, usually a 2 inch contact print...very small...which through his genius became large works of art.

The book mock up is, I believe, going to be included in the collection of the Cowboy Hall of Fame Museum of Western Art.   If you click on the images they should expand in your browser.

Wm. F. Reese and Sergei Bongart both personally requested that Mary write books about them.  If you can find a copy of either they are worth your time.

And thanks to Mary and Robert for allowing me to include these images.


  1. Thank you Darrell ...Invaluable and interesting ....

  2. Very well stated acknowledgment of two of the sweetest creative geniuses, Mary and Robert, I have had the privilege of knowing, as well as a most meaningful contribution of Fechin's mock-ups to those of us, especially painters, struggling to capture the essence of our subjects beyond their simple appearance. Thank you, Darrell.


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