Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more Born in 1874, Nicholas Roerich spent summers on his family's estate outside St Petersburg. There he had his first exposure to nature through the surrounding primeval forests, lakes and scattered mounds, within which were buried archaeological remnants of the Viking warriors who had settled those lands centuries earlier. His fascination with the Himalayas and Eastern philosophies also stems from there. Semyon Vorontsov (1744-1832) who had originally owned the estate, had, after his return from travels through India given it the name Isvara, the Sanskrit word for 'Lord' or 'divine spirit'. In the living room hung a large painting depicting the Himalayan peak Kanchenjunga, which would later become a significant subject in Roerich’s oeuvre. The mysteries of natural phenomena and traces of ancient civilizations had thus from an early stage held immense appeal for Nicholas Roerich, and remained a main undercurrent in his work, from his studies at the Academy under Arkhip Kuindzhi (1842-1910) throughout his collaborations with the theatre and the remainder of his career. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Roerich and his family left Russia and settled in the province of Karelia in Finland. The Finnish period was the beginning of a new phase in Roerich’s career. In the year 1918 he would paint a series of works dedicated to the environment that now harboured the exiled Roerich family. Displaced and disillusioned, Roerich sought deeper meaning in his new surroundings and thus produced a series in which he would depict enchanted lands and their mysterious protectors, such as the serenely beautiful The Knight of the Morning (lot 37), which would later be described by the American curator and critic Christian Brinton as ‘These shining protectors of enchanted cities, these fervid saints, and cabalistic weavers of spells are supermen. The Knight of the Morning proudly rides the sun-tipped clouds […] There is a cosmic impersonality to this art that recalls the days when the world was fresher and more spacious than it seems at present.” (Christian Brinton, The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition Catalogue, New York, 1920). Following several successful one-man exhibitions in various Scandinavian cities, Roerich and his family departed for London in 1919. He spent a very prolific year in the British capital, which included a number of important commissions for set designs by Sir Thomas Beecham as well as Serge Diaghilev. At the invitation of Robert Harshe, Director of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Roerich family departed for the United States in 1920. Upon Roerich’s arrival to the American shore, an important exhibition was launched in New York at the Kingore Gallery that would travel to various cities through 1923. The Roerich family would remain in the United States until 1923, forging strong relationships and actively engaging in numerous cultural and social activities that would define the remainder of Roerich's career. The Roerichs became members of the Theosophical Society, but quickly became disenchanted and developed their own teachings. They initiated several movements and institutions, such as Cor Ardens and Corona Mundi, both of which were meant to unite artists around the globe in the cause of civic activism, and a vibrant art school known as the Master Institute of United Arts, which became the eventual home of the first Nicholas Roerich Museum. They also formed the Agni Yoga Society, dedicated to the eponymous spiritual teachings that meant to serve as ‘living ethics’ for its followers. These activities dominated the lives of the Roerichs and engendered generations of followers who continue to sustain their legacy and their teachings. Having been drawn to India for years, Nicholas and Helena Roerich had been making numerous attempts to travel there since their departure from Russia. The journey was first realised at the end of 1923. The Roerich family then began their Asian expedition, which would last approximately five years. Their journey would take them to India, Sikkim, Ladakh, Chinese Turkestan, Altai, Mongolia and Tibet. It was the Roerichs’ goal to explore unknown regions in order to study the religions, languages and customs of their inhabitants and to absorb the immense spiritual impact these lands held for them. Nicholas Roerich wrote about his observations and experiences from this expedition in his book Heart of Asia, and vividly depicted his fascination with the region and its history – both known and unknown – in the magnificent paintings created during this time, exceptional examples of which are being offered for the first time at auction in this sale. The Roerichs settled in Darjeeling at the beginning of 1924, and from there would travel to Nepal, Sikkim and the Tibetan Plateau. According to Buddhist legends Sikkim was known as 'the hidden land'; an impenetrable, secret kingdom, hidden by the gates of its highest mountain, Kanchenjunga. A site of great philosophical significance and inspiration to the artist, having first seen an image of it in his childhood, Roerich painted the famous mountain about a dozen times in the year 1924 alone, and continued to come back to this subject many times during his life. Each view of Kanchenjunga is distinctly different and unique. The painting Kanchenjunga (lot 42) in this collection, is one of 41 works from Roerich’s ‘Himalayan’ series, executed in 1924. Roerich dedicated thirteen paintings to a series entitled, ‘Sikkim’, which includes the spectacular Himalayas (lot 39). With a keen sense of observation and a penchant for accuracy, Roerich deftly portrayed the mountains and their atmospheric variations. Using bright white pigment Roerich rendered the sunlit snow covering the peaks of the mountains. With clever use of impasto, the rocky surface beneath the snow can easily be read. The misty, darker mountain ranges in the foreground are depicted with thinner and broader shades of blue. Roerich would depict the areas they visited from different vantage points, at different times of day, ensuring that he captured these contrasts with different tones and brushwork. In Stupa in Sikkim (lot 40), he used lighter shades to highlight the moonlit mountaintops in the background and darker blues and black in the foreground, where only the silhouette of the stupa can be deciphered along the unlit ridge. In Valley of the Nubra (lot 38), painted between 1925 and 1926, Roerich incorporated bright yellows and pinks, blues and lavenders to portray this extraordinary landscape. Painted on wood panel, Roerich skillfully incorporated the grain of the wood in his painting in order to capture the jagged edges of the rocky landscape, as well as the ripples in the water and cloud formations. In September of 1927, The Roerich family crossed the Tangla mountain range. Roerich’s bright and crisp depiction of this landscape, as seen in Tangla (lot 41), is echoed in an account of their crossing later given by his son George; ‘The atmosphere was remarkably transparent. The whole of the Thang La Range stood out clearly and its white, sparkling outline rose high above the intricate mountain country that stretched around it.’ (George Roerich, Trails to Inmost Asia: Five Years of Exploration with the Roerich Central Asian Expedition, New Haven, 1931, p. 290). Nicholas Roerich was an extremely important figure in the life of Margaret Janice Vann, who, as a student of Agni Yoga and Higher Self Yoga absorbed the tenets of Roerich’s teachings, which she strove to realise throughout her life. Part of the proceeds from the sale of this collection will benefit two not-for-profit organisations selected by Ms Vann that continue to promote the legacy of Nicholas Roerich’s teachings; Higher Self Yoga and the Center for Peace through Culture. Based on the teachings of Agni Yoga, the mission of Higher Self Yoga is to educate, inspire and transform people on a global level, from diverse cultures, in order to uplift their consciousness and bring joy into daily life. The Center for Peace through Culture is meant to serve as an educational centre for psychological peace and peace through culture through virtual as well as in-person workshops and services for youth and adults. Its mission is to promote peace, beginning on the individual level and expanding to a global level, through programs developed by creative people collaborating to better the world. We are grateful to Gvido Trepsa, Senior Researcher at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York for his assistance in cataloguing the works in this collection. PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF MARGARET JANICE VANN
Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947)

The Knight of the Morning from the Equus aeternus series

Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947)
The Knight of the Morning from the Equus aeternus series
oil on panel
17¾ x 28½ in. (44 x 72.4 cm.)
Painted in 1918
Nicholas Roerich Museum, 1923–1935.
Louis and Nettie Horch, New York.
Acquired from the above circa 1960.
Exhibition catalogue, Rörich Separatutställning, [Roerich Solo Exhibition], Stockholm, 1918, no. 76
Exhibition catalogue, Rörich Maleriudstilling, [Roerich Paintings Exhibition], Copenhagen, 1919, no. 76
Exhibition catalogue, Nicholas Roerich, Helsinki, 1919, listed p. 6, no. 76
Exhibition catalogue, Nicholas Roerich, The Spells of Russia, London, 1920, listed p. 4, no. 8.
Exhibition catalogue, Nicholas Roerich, The Spells of Russia, Worthing, 1920, listed p. 9, no. 113.
C. Brinton, The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition Catalogue, New York, 1920-1921-1922, no. 28.
Roerich, Corona Mundi, New York, 1924, illustrated pl. 29.
F. Grant, M. Siegrist, G. Grebenstchikoff and I. Narodny, Roerich. Himalaya. A Monograph, New York, 1926, listed p. 202, no. 28.
Roerich Museum Catalogue, Eighth Edition, New York, 1930, listed p. 12, no. 28.
Stockholm, Gummesons Konsthall, Rörich Separatutställning, [Roerich Solo Exhibition], 10-30 November 1918, no. 76.
Copenhagen, Rörich Maleriudstilling, [Roerich Paintings Exhibition ], 10 January-? 1919, no. 76.
Helsinki, Salon Strindberg, Konstutställning No 71, Nicholas Roerich, 29 March-? 1919, no. 76.
London, The Goupil Gallery, Nicholas Roerich, The Spells of Russia, April-July 1920, no. 8.
Worthing, The Public Art Gallery, Nicholas Roerich, The Spells of Russia, July–August 1920, no. 113.
New York, Kingor Galleries; Boston, Boston Art Club; Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery; Chicago, Art Institute; St Louis, City Art Museum; San Francisco, Museum of Art; Omaha, Fine Arts Society; Kansas, City Art Institute; Cleveland, Museum of Art; Indianapolis, Herron Art Institute; Minnesota State fair; Milwaukee, Art Institute; Detroit, Institute of Art, and more cities. The Nicholas Roerich Exhibition, 1920–1923, no. 28.
Nicholas Roerich Museum, permanent collection, 1923–1935, no. 28.

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