Opening Asia for Russia

29.06.2018 101 просмотров

Nicholas Roerich is a Russian thinker and artist. With his work, he proved the inseparable unity of world culture all his life. Both Russians and Indians consider him theirs.

The life of Nicholas Roerich was like his paintings - full of bright colors, secrets, incredible insights. He is admired in Europe and America, but especially strongly in India. In various parts of the Earth, there are centers for studying the work of this unusually spiritual person and artist. His artwork and  literary heritage helps people of different nationalities to better understand each other.


Nicholas Roerich was born in St. Petersburg in 1874. His father worked as a lawyer-notary. The paternal ancestors of the Roerichs are either from Scandinavia or from Germany. But the Roerichs, finally Russified by the middle of the 19th century, did not attach any importance to their origin. The mother of the future artist was from an old merchant family.

Eight-year-old Kolya was assigned by his parents to study at a private gymnasium, where he showed special talent for drawing. After graduating from elementary school, the young man decided to enter the Academy of Arts. However, he unexpectedly met with sharp resistance from his father, who urgently demanded that his son engage in legal practice, that is, follow in his footsteps. The same one nevertheless made a compromise decision - at the same time he entered both the Academy of Arts and the law faculty of St. Petersburg University. It happened in 1893.

Nicholas Roerich was lucky: his basic education, which he received in his youth, turned out to be very good. Over the years of study, the young man managed to comprehend the specialty, engage in literary work under the guidance of the famous critic Vladimir Stasov and paint. The main mentor of Roerich at the Academy of Arts was the famous Arkhip Kuindzhi. Nicholas Roerich subsequently called him nothing more than a “teacher of life”, he learned so much from him: first of all, he adopted the master’s unique writing style, and the young artist also began to refuse to prescribe unnecessary details in his paintings, retaining only the most important impressions from nature. This method, as Roerich himself later said, contributed to the development of imagination, but did not go beyond reliability. Roerich learned the lessons of the master perfectly, partially adopting from Kuindzhi the method of light and color solutions in his canvases. He was also impressed by the master's skill in creating spatial compositions. However, most of all he was attracted by the freedom that reigned in Kuindzhi's workshop. Is it not from here that his passion for the work of Viktor Vasnetsov began, in whose art Roerich appreciated the originality and “bright impulse”, the poetic interpretation of nature, the appeal to history, fairy tales and ... heroism, seen through the prism of centuries-old folk traditions?

Nicholas Roerich
Russia. St. Petersburg. A visitor at the painting "Ilya Muromets. From the Suite "Bogatyr Frieze" at the exhibition of works by Nicholas Roerich, dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the artist's birth, in the Benois Wing of the Russian Museum. Photo: Pyotr Kovalev / TASS

Unexpected love

They say that you need to marry the woman with whom it is easier to part because you will never part with her. fate with Elena Shaposhnikova - a written beauty, the daughter of the famous architect Ivan Ivanovich Shaposhnikov. (By the way, the beautiful Elena was also the niece of the composer Modest Mussorgsky and was the great-granddaughter of the commander Mikhail Kutuzov.) He refuted - because he married out of great love. with her a long, happy, although sometimes full of painful trials, life, which, however, they invented for themselves.

Then, at the time of their youth, everything happened something like this. children, how her acquaintance with a young man she liked happened. Once, in the summer of 1899, she was vacationing at the estate of Prince Putyatin in the Novgorod region. Once the girl was returning from a walk, and on the way, as she later told, she met a handsome young man whom she mistook for a surveyor. Then in the evening they drank tea together, and the "surveyor", as it turned out, turned out to be a promising artist (by that time, a graduate of the Academy of Arts had already painted the historical painting "Messenger", and it was acquired by the famous art connoisseur P. Tretyakov).

It turns out that the artist was in the estate on business related to the excavation of mounds. The mind and beauty of the girl made a proper impression on him. Then the acquaintance of young people continued in St. Petersburg, and about a year later Nicholas Roerich invited the girl to marry him. She did not refuse, although the relatives of Elena Shaposhnikova categorically opposed the wedding, believing that her married life with Roerich, who was not very rich, would become an "unbearable chimera." But the young, in spite of all circumstances, got married in the church of the Academy of Arts on Vasilyevsky Island on October 22, 1901.

Like-minded people

Not all spouses have a sense of inner harmony in relation to each other and a unity of perception of the world. The Roerichs had it. Their interests coincided even in relation to musical and literary works. Together they traveled across the boundless Russian expanses. As a logical conclusion to those trips, a whole series of paintings appeared. It was dedicated to the life of the ancient Slavs. Exhibitions were held not only in Russia, but also in many major European cities.

In his paintings, Roerich considered the history of Russia through specific situations and certain types of people. A lot of the people in his works are some kind of signs, so they are depicted without prescribing faces. On the other hand, active motor skills are present in Roerich’s canvases, and his paintings get the appropriate names: “They build boats” (1903), “They collect tribute” (1907), “Think of clothes” (1908), “Drag by dragging” (1915). He seems to illustrate a book of history, from which personal names have been crossed out.

Nicholas Roerich
Visitors at the painting "Mikula Selyaninovich" at the exhibition of works by Nicholas Roerich dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the artist's birth, in the Benois Wing of the Russian Museum. Photo: Pyotr Kovalev/TASS

Roerich experiments a lot. The results of some art critics are alarming, and sometimes even shocking. Still would! Having achieved the ability to write with complete looseness and freedom, the artist refuses oil painting, which is too “bodily”, as it seems to him. He gradually moves to tempera - to its somewhat peculiar sonority of color. Used in the works and pastels. The paintings had a remarkable matte surface, which corresponded to the poetic and decorative tasks of the author, who developed his own special style. Roerich began to give preference to bright and sonorous colors with very subtle transitions of shades.

Even Alexander Benois, always critical of Roerich's art, noted his undoubted success. True, he did not fail to caustically remark, they say, all Roerich's exhibitions are well-thought-out “leopard races”. So the famous master made it clear that he sees in Roerich an artist who prudently builds the path of his glory. Indeed, Roerich carefully selected works for demonstration, but it would be unlikely that real success would have come to him if his works had not been original and talented.

The beginning of the "Indian path"

another Orientalist Viktor Golubev visited an exhibition of Oriental art in Paris. Golubev, who had already visited India by that time, shared his observations that Indian and Slavic cultures are in many ways similar. Roerich, always restrained, unexpectedly showed a strange agitation, which greatly surprised his companion.

A little time passed, and the artist's literary work came out, explaining a lot. In Golubev's stories and exhibits, Roerich looked for evidence that guesses that the East is the cradle of European culture are not just guesses. Some facts, in his opinion, confirmed this idea. It was then that the artist's interest in Eastern culture began to clearly form. He tried to find in it those values that seemed to him lost by Russian culture. Roerich became more and more convinced that a special expedition to the East could give extraordinary results.

It was during this period that the artist became seriously interested in history. And not only the history of the Slavs, which, in his opinion, had much deeper roots than was commonly considered official science. He notes: “Through Byzantium we dreamed of India, so we are heading towards it.” However, he was able to realize his dream only ten years later.

Nicholas Roerich
India. Kullu valley. Artist, writer and traveler Nicholas Roerich with his sons Yuri and Svyatoslav. TASS photo chronicle

The choice is made

When the Russian revolution broke out, Nicholas Roerich was in Finland, where he was treating a lung disease. This event of a planetary scale changed the plans of the artist - in the middle of 1918 the Roerich family went to Copenhagen, where an exhibition of the artist's paintings was opened. Further, the path of already “rich in fame” Nicholas Roerich lay in London, where his next exhibition also took place. In London, he meets Rabindranath Tagore. According to eyewitnesses, the poet once said prophetic words to the artist: "Your art is independent, because it is great." And he invited his whole family to India.

The Roerich family took advantage of this invitation, but not immediately. The way to India lay through the USA. In New York, Nikolai Konstantinovich organized the Main Institute of United Arts. In different American cities, one after another, his personal exhibitions were held. In the USA, the artist took up design - he painted scenery for productions at the Chicago Opera House. Many researchers of Roerich's work believe that he formed his teaching as a whole around this time, and later only sought confirmation of his thoughts, according to which world culture has common roots.

Everyone in the family seemed to be carried away by Indian philosophy. Including Elena Ivanovna, who quickly became a major specialist in this field, and the eldest son Yuri, who received a master's degree in Indian philology at the Sorbonne. Only the youngest son of the Roerichs, Svyatoslav, kept a temporary peculiar neutrality in relation to India.

Time for Changes

1923. The year that divided Roerich's entire life into two periods - "before" and "after". Because after 1923 there was India. This time is filled with special meaning for the artist. His dream finally came true, and he nevertheless came to this country - at the head of an expedition whose main task was to study its cultural and historical heritage. The journey took place in little-studied areas. Nikolai Konstantinovich acted simultaneously as an artist, historian and archaeologist, and his wife studied the philosophy of the East, myths, legends and tales. Son Yuri is a philologist-linguist and an expert on the dialects of the peoples of Asia. But his son Svyatoslav was forced to return to the United States to continue his studies.

The Roerich family traveled great distances, overcoming high mountain passes and mountain ranges, experiencing all the hardships of camp life and risking getting shot by local robbers, who in those there were quite a few times in the Himalayas, they were feared not only by lonely travelers. After the expedition, Roerich visits Soviet Russia to fulfill the order of the Himalayan mahatmas and convey to the Soviet government the message of the leaders of the spiritual East.

The Roerich family finally "settled" at the foot of the Himalayas in 1928, choosing the high-mountainous Kullu valley as their place of residence. Roerich does a lot of creative work - he mainly paints pictures that he is inspired by the Himalayan landscapes. Artist  literally fascinated by the majestic mountains, their snowy peaks shining in the sun, in which he felt, by his own admission, cosmic power. The magnetism of the giants delighted the artist and at the same time calmed him, bringing peace and harmony to his life. 

Nicholas Roerich
Russia. St. Petersburg. A visitor at the painting "Lhasa" at the exhibition of works by Nicholas Roerich, timed to coincide with the 140th anniversary of the artist's birth. Photo: Pyotr Kovalev / TASS

The first exhibition of Nicholas Roerich in the USSR was held only in 1958 in Moscow, but later residents of other Soviet cities were able to get acquainted with his work. , which he handed over by will as a gift to his homeland, to which he never reached at the end of his life's journey.



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