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Cubist sculpture
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Roerich Nikolai Konstantinovich

Member of the World of Art. Since the 1920s he lived in India. Emotional, colorful and decorative compositions inspired by the history of Ancient Russia (“The Messenger”, 1897), Indian and Tibetan nature and mythology (“Remember”, 1945). Roerich considered history and nature as a process of a single “cosmic evolution”. In 1924-1928, together with Yu. N. Roerich and in 1934-1935 he made expeditions to India, China, Mongolia and other countries of Central and East Asia (books Heart of Asia, 1929, Gateway to the Future, 1936). Initiator of the movement in defense of cultural monuments (in 1954 the Roerich International Pact for the Protection of Cultural Property was concluded); founded the Institute of Himalayan Studies in Nigar – “Urusvati” (1929-42; together with Yu. N. Roerich). Collection of poems “Flowers of Moria”, 1921; prose essay and diary books: Ways of Blessing, 1924, Flame Stronghold, 1932, Indestructible, 1936, Altai-Himalayas, in Russian – 1974. The International Roerich Center was created in Moscow (1992; converted from Soviet Roerich Foundation). Born in a notary family. He studied at the Academy of Arts (1893-1897) with A. I. Kuindzhi, as well as in the studio of F. Cormon in Paris (1900-1901). He was a member of the World of Art association, holding the post of its chairman in 1910-1918. At the turn of the century, he was actively engaged in archaeological study of Slavic and Ugro-Finnish antiquities in St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov, Tver, Yaroslavl provinces. In 1899-1904 he wrote a large cycle of architectural and historical pictorial sketches of Pskov, Rostov the Great, Smolensk, Izborsk and other Russian cities; in the national romance of these images, with its colorful sculptures that penetrate the texture of ancient landscapes and buildings, organically combined archeology with art. The protection of ancient monuments becomes for him an urgent philosophical problem, providing a true historical perspective, “the search for a future life” (as he writes in the sketch of “The Icon”, 1910).

The beginning of the way

In the historical paintings of the young master [“Messenger” (“Risen clan to clan”), 1897; “Overseas Guests”, 1901; “The city is being built”, 1902; The Fight, 1906; all – the Tretyakov Gallery] the palette becomes brighter over time, the episodes of the past are translated into symbolic revelations about the fate of world cultures, which have their common archaic roots. Historical development more often appears as a chain of universal cataclysms (“Sky Battle”, 1912, Russian Museum, where the formidable play of heavy clouds seems to duplicate the battle on earth), the focus of images often become legendary figures of heroes and saints (Panteleimon the Healer, 1916 , Tretyakov Gallery; “Three Joys”, 1916, Russian Museum). The artist fruitfully embodies his enchanting colorful visions in scenography (design of performances: “Per Gunt” by G. Ibsen (1912, at the Moscow Art Theater), “Tristan and Isolda” R. Wagner (1912, neo staged production), “The Rite of Spring” by I.F. Stravinsky (1913, the entreprise of S.P. Diaghilev in Paris), “Prince Igor” by A.P. Borodin (1914, the entreprise of Diaghilev in London). He also works in monumental and decorative art, becoming one of the most prominent representatives of the “Church Art Nouveau”, updating the traditional Byzantine iconography. However, his largest monumental works are paintings of the Church of St. Spirit in Talashkin near Smolensk (1911-14, with the composition “Queen of Heaven on the Bank of the River of Life”, where the master combined Christian and ancient pagan natural symbols), as well as the panel “Sich at Kerzhenets” and “The Conquest of Kazan” for Kazan Station in Moscow ( 1915-16) not preserved.

Literary work

The early archaeological scientific publications and critical reviews of Roerich were replaced by his mature literary work, presented in the first (and only) volume of the collected works (1914) and the collection of poems “Flowers of Moria” (1921). He creates his own (in the words of M. Gorky) “letters” about the historical fate of the East and West, their deep relationship, addressing various genres – to a fairy tale, legend and parable, poem and epic, philosophical essay, didactic sermon, and finally poetic comments about your own paintings.

Trans Himalayan expedition

After the October Revolution, Roerich established a rather complicated and contradictory attitude towards the new government. On the one hand, he strongly condemns revolutionary violence and vandalism, on the other hand, he accepts everything that happened to Russia as a sign of historical fate, an inevitable global catastrophe – and seeks to establish cooperation with the Bolsheviks. Since 1920, he lives abroad, mainly in the United States. In 1923, he began his famous Trans-Himalayan expedition from Sikkim with the goal of historical, ethnographic and topographical exploration of Inner Asia. Constantly at the crossroads of the geopolitical interests of various states, Roerich in the course of the expedition consolidates his increasingly significant international authority – in the role of a kind of world mediator.

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