Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich ( 1974-1947)
Nicholas K. Roerich today stands as one of the greatest masters of the century – an artist whose creative genius had been recorded in more than 7000 masterpieces dispersed all over the world, adding to the glory of Russian culture. His achievements as archeologist and scientist, as philosopher and as a Leader of the movement for International Unity through Culture, are no less stupendous. A man of many talents, constantly questing, constantly evocative, undeviating from his goal, he devoted his whole self to the idea of common good – greater brotherhood through Culture.
It is exceptional significance that the name of Nicholas Roerich is universally proclaimed and impressed upon human hearts, not only as a Master of brush, but also as a thinker and a builder of life. In studying the biography of Roerich one is confronted by a great chain of real, indisputable facts. Nicholas Roerich’s remarkable interests and talents made for an extraordinary individuality. His abiding interest in the fundamental universality of cultures and civilizations the world over can be traced back to his childhood in Russia. He was born in St. Petersburg on October 9, 1974. Taught initially by private tutors, he was sent to a private gymnasium of K.I. Mai, where he proved a diligent and clever student. His favorite subjects were history and geography. He did not learnt just from the school textbooks, but his vivid imagination was fed by the stories of remote civilizations and lands. On graduation from school in1893 he entered the law faculty of St. Petersburg University and at the same time the Academy of Arts where he apprenticed with a notable landscapist Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindji. Roerich lived most of his life in Russia, but he also spent a few years working in the USA and Western Europe, and more than twenty years in India.
The general device of Roerich’s works of art, multifarious in content, yet united in their inner striving, is The Call to Culture. The artist worked in the sphere of monumental and applied arts, he created set designs and drawings, historical epics and landscapes, sketches for murals and mosaics for churches, for furniture, costumes, and embroideries. This diverse heritage is hall-marked by an original talent. No doubt Rorich’s pictures defy conventional yardsticks and are unique in many ways. The pictorial art system developed by him has been dubbed variously as “cosmic synthesis” or “synthesis of wisdom” and belongs to innovations of the 20-th century. Roerich’s mastery of color is evident in brilliant colors of the tempera and pastels, whose bright, pure colors and velvet surfaces characterized his later works. Having introduced a new freedom and emotions through his own art he has changed in a way the very concept of the beautiful.
His artistic style is distinguished by the depth of line and expressive value of color and the emotional color of form. For Roerich the painting was not art in itself: the subject he painted represented to him symbols, associations and a stream of thought. In his realistic representations of Nature he developed the traditions of his teacher A. I.Kuindji, who taught Roerich that the inner meaning and significance of the painting was more important than just style, technique and composition. Irrespective of the subject his pictures treated they have a universal appeal in them.
Through his indefatigable creativeness, his daily labor and achievements, Roerich acquired in universal measure that synthesis which reconciled and solved the most difficult problems. His emphasis everywhere was on Beauty, Peace, Culture, on the most post positive, creative foundations, that gave birth to numerous associations, societies, leagues, institutions and international projects. When in America he helped to set up the International Society for Artists, Cor Ardens ( Flaming Heart) in 1921, the Corona Mundi (Crown of the World) International Art Center in 1922. His energy and initiative brought to life the New York Institute of Arts and the New York Roerich Museum.
The best evidence of Roerich’s popularity today is the Roerich Museum in Novosibirsk, which is being constructed on public donations from all over the world and is becoming an art shrine for many people of widely different social strata and traditions. In accordance with Roerich’s universal conception of the essential unity of the arts and science a broad program of lectures, scientific conferences, recitals, “round table” meetings, pedagogical and musical sections, exhibitions and reproductions of pictures that form the bulk of national treasures of the world is being conducted under the auspices of the above mentioned venue.
Being deeply concerned on problems of culture, Roerich formulated the concept of Pax Cultura which sought for international agreement of preserving cultural values of the universe; these activities resulted in the adoption of the so called “Roerich Pact” and the Banner of Peace. Roerich’s idea won world recognition. Many prominent people and statesmen backed up the Peace Pact.
Roerich’s journey to India (1923-1947) was a culmination of his artistic and spiritual quest. The outcome of an unparalleled in the history of world’s art journey of a Russian artist to the uncharted regions of Central Asia and of his long sojourn in India was more than 500 paintings mainly of the “Himalayas” series. It would be noteworthy to mention that 60 pictures of Nicholas Roerich adorn halls of the Novosibirsk Picture Gallery. They were presented to the city by the artist’s elder son Yuri Nicholayevich on his returning to Russia from India.
Roerich was highly revered by the people of India. A true friend of India , Roerich was agaist the British Rule in India and developed close friendship with many eminent Indians including Rabindranath Tagore, Indira Gandhi , and Jawaharlal Nehru, who were astounded by the scope and abundance of Roerich’s activities and creative genius..
Probably his depictions of the tranquility and splendor of the Himalayas is his richest legacy. His painting of these sacred, snow covered peaks give a glimpse not just of the magic of the mountains, but of the artist’s soul. As Leonard Andregs , a to put it “ To see a painting of Roerich means to perceive the Whole World”.
Compiled by K.Bespalko