Master of the mountains

Master of the mountains


Master of the mountains

 Mounted to celebrate Indo-Russian cultural relations, the exhibition titled ‘Nicholas Roerich: An Eternal Quest’ will be on till April 11 and showcases works taken from The International Centre of Roerichs, Moscow, The International Roerich Trust, Naggar, Allahabad Museum, Baroda Museum, Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh, and Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi.

The prolific Russian artist Nicholas Roerich made Naggar in the Kulu region of Himachal Pradesh his home in the latter part of his life, and is today counted amongst the great Indian masters such as Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose and Jamini Roy.

Nicholas Roerich was an extraordinary personality, a unique individual, having an immense thirst for knowledge, and a deep appreciation of beauty in all forms. A trained painter and lawyer, archaeologist, ethnographer, poet, historian and philosopher, Roerich devoted himself to the ideal of the common good of mankind throughout his life.
Says Prof Rajeev Lochan, director, NGMA: “Roerich’s outlook of the world was unique, based upon the knowledge of the fundamental laws of existence. He was convinced that by increasing the level of masses’ spiritual culture, one could transform life on earth and defeat ignorance, vulgarity, exploitation and wars. In his own words, “Where there is culture, there is peace.” Being convinced of the transforming power of culture, Nicholas Roerich devoted himself not only to artistic, but also to educational activities.

Roerich’s lifetime work comprises around 7000 paintings and sketches, which can be found in famous museums and private collections all around the world.  His early works, based on Russian themes and legends, the panoramic Russian landscapes, history and folk art, bear strong influences of his Russian heritage and form nearly half of the show on display. Roerich travelled extensively, first in Russia, later in Europe and America, before realising his long cherished dream to come to India.

In fact, one of India’s renowned miniature artists Bireswar Sen was propelled towards landscape painting essentially by his meeting with Roerich in 1932, and later wrote in a journal, “To most of us, Roerich is a legendary figure of romance.” But, he added: “Against the wild glare of the flaming West, his mighty figure looms large like the motionless and benevolent Buddha in the midst of a vast cosmic cataclysm.” At the same time, he wrote that if Roerich was ‘great’, ‘greater still’ were his works. For he saw in them, especially in Roerich’s paintings of the Himalayas that he so loved, a luminosity which seemed to come as much from the startling brilliance of the colours he used as from the fire that burned within.

Years earlier, writing on Roerich’s paintings in the Arts Gazette, someone had remarked upon “the tender violet-like amethysts of his snows at dawn, the emerald-like grass of his prairies, the pale turquoise of his northern skies, the mother-of-pearl of his clouds, the jasper and malachite of his rocks, the amber and rubies of his sunsets …”
Drawn inexplicably to the vast mountain ranges of the Himalayas, like no other painter, Roerich was able to grasp and depict the subtle-most shades, hues and tones of the mountains, and their ethereal transparency. He was proclaimed the ‘Master of the Mountains’. He sensed the subtle spirit and harmony of the mountains, their solemn, mighty essence and significance for humanity as the symbol of the purest, highest aspiration towards beauty and knowledge. “Treasure-house of the Spirit” — thus Roerich used to call his beloved Himalayas!