Russia • 1874−1947
Nicholas Roerich (known also as Nikolai Rerikh, 27 September (October 9) 1874, St. Petersburg — 13 December 1947, Naggar, Himachal Pradesh, India) was a Russian artist, philosopher, writer, stage designer, archaeologist, and traveller. He was the author of The Roerich Pact, which enshrined the protection of cultural heritage around the world at the statutory level.

Features of Nicholas Roerich’s art: the heritage of Nicholas Roerich is multifaceted, it is represented by the works of easel, scenic and monumental painting. Today, there exist more than 7,000 works by Roerich – paintings, mosaics, murals, sketches, scenery drawings.

The main themes of Roerich’s creativity are Old Ruthenian and Oriental traditions, the beauty of wildlife.
Roerich’s famous paintings are “Guests from Overseas”, “The Slavs on the Dnieper”, “Battle in the Heavens”, Alexander Nevsky”,Russian Easter”, “Mstislav’s Duel with Rededia”, “Snow Maiden and Lel”.

Roerich’s becoming an artist

Nikolai Roerich was born into a family of the educated people: Konstantin Fyodorovich, his father, held the position of notary public and took an active part in society, and his mother, Maria Vasilievna, was a merchant’s daughter. The Roerichs family was friends with many famous people of that time, including D. Mendeleev, M. Mikeshin, N. Kostomarov and others. Since his childhood, Nicholas Roerich was interested in painting, history, archeology, history and culture of Russia and the Orient. The artist and friend of his father Mikhail Mikeshin promoted his love for drawing.

To get an art education, in 1893 Roerich entered the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, the studio of the famous painter A. I. Kuindzhi, whose work had a huge impact on the creativity of the future artist. This is especially noticeable if you look at the ealy works of Nicholas Roerich.

Along with his studies at the Academy, Nikolai studied at the law and historical-philological faculties of the State University. He devoted his spare time to drawing: Roerich’s works were published in the magazines “World Illustration” and “Star”, he also painted icons commissioned by the churches. The young painter found inspiration in ancient books and chronicles, studied them in the Public Library.

The artist made his first journey in 1899: Roerich reached Novgorod from St. Petersburg in a steamboat, following the same waterway as the Vikings who sailed there hundreds of years ago. The impressions from this trip sparked a craving for travel in him and were reflected in Roerich’s subsequent work devoted to the history of Ruthenia.

The mature years

Afterwards, there was a trip to Paris, study at the famous artist Fernand Cormon, who preferred historical subjects, and, finally, his wedding with Elena Shaposhnikova, a true friend, companion and muse. Together with his wife, Roerich actively travelled around Russia, studied ancient architecture, organized exhibitions, worked as the director of the Drawing School, and headed the “Mir Iskusstva” (“World of Art”) association. In 1904, sketches and paintings by Nikolai Roerich were sent to St. Louis (America), where an exhibition and sale was held. They returned to the artist’s homeland after 70 years.

Since 1906, Nicholas Roerich's art took a new direction: in the catalogue of the famous works of that time, paintings dominate, where the artist experimented with shades by changing the composition of colours and applying one colour upon another. He worked hard to find harmony in the combination of realism and symbolism. The paintings by Nicholas Roerich created during this work period can be watched endlessly, as you move from detail to detail and admire the play of colours.
In the works by Roerich, which he painted before the 1917 coup, the beauty of wildlife, Russian towns and villages, ordinary people are praised, various stories from epics and folk tales are played out (“Elders Gathering”, “Idols”, “Morning of Kyiv bogatyrs”, “The Battle of Kerzhenets”). Roerich the artist worked much and fruitfully, creating scenery for theatrical productions (Per Gynt, Snegurochka, Valkyrie). He also took part in the design of various churches, Moscow Kazan Station, and a Buddhist temple in St. Petersburg.

The lung disease in 1916 forced the painter to change the climate. He left for Finland, to the shores of Ladoga Lake. The borders between Finland and Russia, closed after the 1917 coup, deprived him of the opportunity to return to his homeland. Roerich travelled a lot to European countries, visited America, and in 1923 he went to India as part of the Central Asian expedition. This country fascinated him so much that in 1935 he remained to live in the Kullu valley at the foot of the Northern Himalayas.
In many paintings by Nicholas Roerich, which he created during over 12 years of life in India, viewers can see the majestic mountains, depicted in all their harsh beauty. The Himalayas series counts more than 2 000 paintings, which brought Roerich the nickname “the master of the mountains” from art critics. In addition, in his work, the artist used the subjects from Indian mythology and legends.

The most famous paintings by Roerich

The list of the names of Nikolai Roerich's artworks may take more than one page: the legacy of this hardworking person is truly huge. We bring to your attention his most famous works, which were created during the various periods of his work:
• “The Messenger (The Clan Rebelled Against the Clan)”(1897);
• “Campaign” (1899);
• “Guests from Overseas” (1901);
• “Ominous” (1901-02);
• “They Build a City” (1902);
• “Rostov the Great” (1903);
• “Human Forefathers” (1911);
• “Sword of Courage” (1912);
• “Everest” (1931);
• “The Sword of Gesar Khan” (1932);
• “Prince Igor” (1941);
• "Partisans" (1942) and others.
The painter failed to return to Russia. He passed away in 1947 in the Kullu Valley, where his ashes were dispelled.
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