Exhibition on Nicholas Roerich at Kolkata's Museum

A work of eminent 20th Century Russian painter Nicholas Roerich. File photo

In August, the visitors to the Indian Museum in Kolkata will have a unique glimpse into the life and works of eminent 20th Century Russian painter Nicholas Roerich (October 9, 1874—December 13, 1947), whose work spans across Russia, USA, India, Central Asia and especially West Bengal. Indian Museum and the Allahabad Museum will organise jointly for the first time an exhibition of the works of Roerich in Kolkata.

Born in Saint Petersburg on October 9, 1874, Roerich had close connections with the Russian Czars. He had no option but to migrate to the United States after the February Revolution in 1917 in Russia, which ended the rule of the Czars. He traveled to the United States in 1920 and remained there for a few years.

“More than 5,000 works of him are in the Roerich Museum of New York,” Rajesh Purohit, the Director of Indian Museum told DH.

Soon after his visit to Mumbai in 1923, Roerich began his famous Central Asian expedition from Darjeeling (then a part of Sikkim) in West Bengal. Several of his famous paintings which will be put on display in the exhibition were drawn during the expedition.

The paintings include Abode of Spirit, Beauty of Mountains and Light Penetrating Darkness. 21 of Roerich's paintings along with some of his letters, will be displayed at the exhibition.

The collection which will be brought from the Allahabad Museum is mostly the landscape paintings on canvas of the Himalayas and the central Asian journey of Roerich. There is also the impact of the Byzantine architecture and the Greek Orthodox churches are also reflected in his paintings.

“Immediately traveled to India in 1923, he undertook an expedition to the unknown tracts of Chinese Turkestan(East Turkestan), Altai, Mongolia and Tibet, where he studied the religion, customs and language of the people which are reflected in the works, which will be displayed in the exhibition,” said Purohit.

Roerich’s link with Bengal comes from his cordial relation with one of the famous painters from the state Asit Kumar Hader who also associated with Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore.

“Nicholas Roerich is also connected with one of the members of the famous Bengal school of artists Asit Kumar Haldar who had a gallery in the Allahabad Museum,” said Purohit.

Roerich, who initially used to paint murals on walls of cathedrals in Russia and later on became a painter on canvas, was keenly interested in Indian antiquarian collections. He was inspired by Gautam Buddha and Lord Krishna.

“Since Roerich had a close connection with Bengal, the upcoming first ever exhibition of his works in an Indian Museum in Kolkata will be a unique experience for visitors,” said Sunil Gupta, Director of the Allahabad Museum.

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