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 Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich  (1874 - 1947)



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Lived/Active: New York/New Mexico / Russian Federation/India      Known for: mystical landscape and figure painting-symbolism, teaching, set design

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Ad Code: 1
Nicholas Konstantin Roerich
from Auction House Records.
Madonna Laboris
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An easel painter and stage-set designer with a unique semi-abstract style, Nicholas Roerich depicted landscapes, symbolic figures, ballet, religious themes, mysticism, Russia's ancient past and architectural structures such as churches and monasteries.

He spent much of his career trying to influence his native country to form a cohesive policy towards art and architecture, and to protect its fine art treasures of the past, and to create circumstances of human equality. However, government officials resisted all those efforts, and Roerich, who became strongly anti-Lenin, spent the last years of his life far from his homeland including in western Europe, England, the United States and Asia.

In addition to his painting, he became a writer, theosophist, philosopher and sought-after public speaker who, asserting political and religious freedom, earned nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929, 1932 and 1935.

Roerich was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and was a member of the aristocracy. He studied law at the University in Petrograd and also attended the Imperial Academy of Arts where recognition for his paintings caused him to choose that career.  From 1906 to 1917, he was Director of the School of the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, and from 1910 to 1916, he served as Chair of Sergei Diaghilev's World of Art Society.

In the early 1900s, he became actively involved in occult mysticism, especially the Theosophy movement of seeking direct knowledge of divine wisdom through observations of nature. A counter to Christianity, it was linked to eastern philosophers, and much influenced his painting.

He and his wife, Helena, also a Theosophist exponent, came to Chicago and New York City in 1920 and remained in America until 1923, living primarily in New York. Representatives of the Chicago Art Institute organized an exhibition of his painting, which opened in New York City. The couple traveled west to California and the Southwest, living briefly in New Mexico and Arizona where he painted a Grand Canyon landscape series. Then they spent five years in Central Asia where on a self-described 'Roerich Asian Expedition', they traveled and lectured in China, Mongolia, Kashmir, Tibet and then briefly in Siberia and Russia.

During the second World War, they lived in India, where he shared friendship and ideas of freedom for enslaved peoples with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

Nicholas Roerich died in Naggan, India in 1947. The Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City houses his artwork and archives; a minor solar system planet, 4462 Roerich, has been named for him; and the wide-ranging aspects of his career remain a subject for scholars including Russians Vladimir Rosov and Alexandre Andreyev.

Ruth A. Drayer, Nicholas & Helena Roerich:  The Spiritual Journey of Two Great Artists and Peacemakers
"Nicholas Roerich", Wikipedia, //
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West

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Nicholas Roerich is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Painters of Grand Canyon

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