Nicholas Roerich (1874 St Petersburg-1947 Nagar India) was the teacher of a British American named Ralph Houstin, whom I followed during my Buddhist years. He was a noted as a proponent of peace, painter, writer, archaeologist, and a theosophist. He was born to a well-to-do family, and graduated from both art and law school. He directed Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, from 1906 to 1917. He was President of the “World of Art” society from 1910 to 1916. Later he earned nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize long list, and the Roerich Pact was signed by the United States in April 1935. Formally entitled the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments, it commits signatories to the preservation of cultural heritage in time of war.
Nicolas also was a stage designer. Diaghilev’s “Ballet Russes”, Borodin’s “Prince Igor,” and Stravinsky’s magnificent “Rite of Spring ” (both costumes and set) are on his list of credits.
Roerich engaged in a number of expeditions in Asia, and at one point was detained by the government for five months in Tibet under harsh winter conditions. I read his account in a book called, “Altai Himalya.” His purposes appear to have been archaeological but he asked for and received support from the Bolshevik government, promising to keep on eye on the British. He resided in the U.S. in the run up to WWII, becoming close to Henry Wallace, V.P. under Roosevelt and later a presidential candidate, who was a fan of both Roerich and his wife Helena, whose letters were published.
The Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City is a major repository of his c work. Roerich societies continue to promote his mystical teachings.
His paintings are in the Roerich Musem, the Department of the State Museum of Oriental Arts in Moscow, the Roerich Museum at the International Centre in Moscow and the the Russian State Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. There is a collection in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, in the Art Museum in Novosibirsk, Russia, the National Gallery for Foreign Art in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Art Museum in Nizhny Novgorod Russia, the National Museum of Serbia, the Roerich Hall Estate in Naggar, India, the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram, India; and several of his larger works in The Latvian National Museum of Art. I did the drawing you see here at the Borsa Museum in Riga, Latvia, at a temporary exhibit of this work.
In June 2013 his Madonna Laboris sold at auction £7,881,250, the highest price ever for Russian art at auction. This piece, like so many, are in a dreamy purple haze with strong religious overtones.