PAINTINGS OF NICHOLAS AND SVETOSLAV ROERICH

IN LATVIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ART

 

 

 

       Paintings by Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) have been on display in Latvia since the 1930’s.

       On 10th October 1937, an official Roerich Museum was opened in Riga, next to the premises of the Latvian Roerich Society. Paintings by Nicholas Roerich and Svetoslav Roerich had been brought from Naggar, India over a number of years, until the end of the 1930’s. The collection of the museum at this time contained 45 works by Nicholas and 10 by Svetoslav. In August 1940, when the Soviet army invaded Latvia, the museum was closed, along with the Latvian Roerich Society, and the paintings were confiscated and handed over to the Riga City Art Museum. In June 1941, German troops occupied Latvia. A year later, the works of Nicholas Roerich had been removed from the museum for the purpose of adorning military offices. On discovering this, members of the Society addressed Nicholas Roerich, who then delivered a notary-signed telegram stating that the paintings were his personal property. In the period April to October 1943, the remaining 46 paintings were given back to the Society and taken to the house of Milda Lice. During the German occupation, 8 paintings disappeared without trace, although one of them was eventually found in Moscow, after the year 2000. When the Soviets returned to Latvia, the arrest of Society members began, affecting more than 40 people, and the paintings were confiscated and given to the State museum in 1950. For six years the paintings were stored in the museum storeroom, but on 5th November 1956, a year prior to the return of Nicholas Roerich’s elder son George Roerich to his motherland, one painting by Svetoslav Roerich and 11 paintings by Nicholas Roerich, among them Brahmaputra, Kuluta, and Stronghold of Tibet, were exhibited in the section on Russian art. On 25th January 1957, the painting, Himalaya - Morning was returned to Rihards Rudzitis, a painting which had been a gift to him from Nicholas Roerich. Currently the paintings are on permanent display in art museum "Riga Bourse" (in 6 Dome Square), and they are enjoyed by many visitors. In 1999, the publishing house “Uguns” published the album entitled, “Nicholas Roerich - Paintings from the Collection of the Latvian State Museum of Art (including paintings by Svetoslav Roerich)”.


***


       “Art needs to ignite all the good in the human consciousness. It needs to create spiritual vibrations, ignite the fires of altruism, purify the harmony of the tune of the spiritual face of morality in human beings, purifying it from all dirt and chaos. It needs to awaken the God, and not the animal, in humanity.
       The mission of art is to be rich with the demonstrative characters of beauty, and to be the teacher for a person’s life, leading to a sun-like existence, making consciousness and all qualities within a person sublime, to give heroic power for building a worthy life. It does not have, and cannot have, a different mission, but it is to serve human development.
       Therefore it is necessary for an artist to have a broad amplitude of intelligence, to be ethically sublime as a human being, and to be a prophet in his life and work, so that with the “Sesame key” of his talents, he will spread the light of the world…
       The same mission of the beauty of art, in order to tune into good and turn into friends millions of people’s hearts, was always acknowledged by Nicholas Roerich, whose art, with its delicate sublime temper, talks with the most beautiful and untouched strings of the viewer’s heart. Like a prophet, he believed that art will truly unite mankind, will bring peace and brotherhood to the earth, because everybody, deep inside, feels true beauty, reflected as harmony and love.”


Rihards Rudzitis

 

 

       Nicholas Roerich had always been interested in the history of the development of mankind, and its sparkling personalities, about whom legends are being told that are closer to the truth than official writings. Especially, it is attributed to the East. Of particular importance to Roerich was the figure of the spiritual leader - Jesus Christ. One of his most pleasing and beautiful paintings is “The Path”, which shows the narrow winding path next to the river of life, Santana, that everybody has to walk, and which was also taken by Jesus Christ.

 

 

       For many years of his life, from 1928 to 1947, Nicholas Roerich and his family lived in the Kulu Valley in the Himalayas. Therefore many of his paintings show the surrounding mountains, the blooming valley, and its peoples and legends. “Kuluta” is the name of an ancient kingdom that was located in this place, and it is the name of a painting, beloved for Gunta Rudzite since her childhood, when she visited the Society’s children’s mornings at the age of six.

 

 

       An important place in the art of Roerich is given to Woman - the mother, protector and inspirer. The small sketch, Madonna Laboris, tells about a love-filled woman’s heart, that is able to forgive, getting over all obstacles and preconceptions. Its subject is taken from the Christian legend of the Mother Of God, that is cited in the book, “The Kingdom of Light”, by Roerich.
       "An overly fretful Peter, the holder of the key to Paradise, told the Lord: “I protect the gates all day and do not let anybody in, but every morning new people come into Paradise”… They both went to see. “The Holy Godmother has hanged her snow white voile over the walls, and brings some souls up upon it.” Peter was angry and wanted to interfere, but The Lord whispered: “Shsh! Do not disturb!”"

 

 

       “Om Mani Padme Hum” - Oh, jewel, hidden in the lotus. Thus tell Tibetan monks, chanting the mantra, “Om - Aum - Amen”. This group of sounds unites the earth with the Universe. And directly the lotus flower is anchored with its roots in the earth, the material world, and the ever-flowing river of emotion runs through the culm of the flower directed towards the Sun - the world of thought, the Fiery World.
       This greeting - “good wishes” - is often seen carved on stones at passes in the Himalayas, and at lonely waysides. As always, loyal to himself, Nicholas Roerich allows the lotus flower, in rosy-violet flowery tones, to remain above a lonely monastery.

 

 

       What does an Indian farmer do when he rests in the shadow? “I pray for the world.” Why, sometimes, does a person spend his whole life in the loneliness of the mountains? “I pray for the world.”
       The painting, On the Heights, shows a simple son of his nation, half-naked, and in the lotus position, so comfortable for long-time sitting, and he is praying. His body, and the flame of his heart, have melted the snow in the form of a lotus. His prayer envelops the whole world, and sweeps towards the Universe. The surrounding mountains have become pure and clear blue. Blue is a mental colour, the colour of the world of thought.

 

 

       One of the most beautiful paintings in the exposition is the diptych by Nicholas Roerich, Hunting - Compassion (1936). Compassion was Helena Roerich’s most beloved painting, and she specifically sent it to the Riga Roerich museum and its director, the poet Rihards Rudzitis.
       A Tibetan lama catches the hunter’s arrow with his hand, saving the life of an eastern roe deer. This subject is also popular in the folklore of other nations. The sky in the painting is shown in soft, but not less virile golden tones, with violet and ruby, tones that are close to the aura of the heart of Helena Roerich.

 

 

 

       Eastern nations know about the Buddha Bowl. “The Bowl exists, and is sent prior to each beginning of a new era, to a place where the teachings of the Kalachakra will be established. There are many legends about this Bowl. One of them says that the Bowl always gets delivered all of a sudden, and through the air. So, it is said that it has been delivered to the leader Buddha.” (Letters of Helena Roerich, II edition).

 

 

       During the Central Asian Expedition, the Roerichs often came across large depictions of Maitreya, such as The Sign of the Coming One, carved in stone. About these statues Nicholas Roerich wrote: “Near Maulbeck, on the roadside, you will be suprised to see a giant statue of Maitreya. You feel that this is not the hand of a Tibetan but, most likely, made by the hard-working hands of an Indian during the rise of Buddhism. Fa Xian, the Chinese traveller, mentions in his notes about a large statue of Maitreya in this region. The coming Maitreya is shown with developed legs, a symbol for hastening.” (Nicholas Roerich, “The Heart of Asia”).

 

 

       Let us remember the myth about the Origin of Mountains. When the Planetary Creator toiled over the formulation of the earth, He gave attention to fertile plains which could provide people with a quiet agriculture. But the Mother of the World said, “Verily, people will find bread and trade in the plains, but when gold will pollute the plains, whither shall go the pure in spirit to gather strength? Either let them have wings, or let them have mountains, in order to escape from gold.” And the Creator answered, “It is too early to give wings to people, they would carry death and destruction. But let us give them mountains. Even if some be afraid of them, for others they will be salvation.” Thus there are two kinds of people - people of the plains and people of the mountains.

 

 

       “Overpowering is the vastness of Russia,” thought Nicholas Roerich, whilst immersed in his painting of the Teacher of the Russian nation, Sergius of Radonezh (around 1314/19 – 1392). He was one of the most beloved characters for Nicholas Roerich. His painting, St. Sergius Chapel, with its sublime simplicity of line, the purity of the snow, the deep and eternally blue sky, speaks powerfully to us of this Russian hero, with his spirituality, pure heart and depth of thought.

 

 

Golden green elevations of spring flowers. The flute of Krishna makes even the giant mountains dance and flourish in joyful colours.

 

 

       The blessed Bhagavan (Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna), so the Indian nation called his teacher, the philosopher Swami Ramakrishna (1834-1884). Even during his lifetime, he became a national legend. He had no life of his own, for he was living for others. An aura with three stages: white light, green light and yellow light - this is how he was depicted by Nicholas Roerich, who conveyed his achievements. The work of Ramakrishna, and the message of Ramakrishna, was very close to the Roerichs, and is well known to us also, because of the works of his student, Vivekananda.

 

 

       In his work, “Altai-Himalaya”, Nicholas Roerich wrote about the Brahmaputra, the river that springs from the holy lake, Lake Manasarovar - the Lake of the Great Nagas. Here the wise Rig Veda emerged, and nearby is the holy Mount Kailash, where pilgrims head towards what, they feel, is the way to cross these places. In the middle of the rocks and sand, coloured in violet and purple tones, flows the Brahmaputra. It is relatively quiet during May, but the eroded banks show just how the river grows in June, when the rainwater rapidly unites with the melting snow. Many legends about the Brahmaputra, the son of Brahma, have been preserved. It links the flow of the holy Ganges with the Himalayas - “Here Âryâvarta emerged”.

 

 

       The stars are most clear to see, whilst high up in the mountains at night. The crystal-clear sky and the unusual air makes one feel a unity with the eternal Universe, makes one feel things that seem to be already known, but are usually forgotten in the valleys. Mountains help us to get closer to the stars, and closer to other worlds, because the noises of humanity do not touch these rocky fortresses.

 

 

 

info@latvijasrerihabiedriba.lv