Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

A visit to the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York!

David M. Grossman – USA

david

The author and compiler

New York City is unquestionably one of the great visual art centers of the world with such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art just to name a few. Yet most people, not even New Yorkers are aware that on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on a quiet residential Street just off Riverside Drive in a townhouse that basically blends in with the other buildings on West 107th Street sits a quiet little jewel that is the Nicholas Roerich Museum.

The interior is a warm, artfully laid out 3 story interior filled with a lifetime of inspired art painted in many parts of the world with a spiritual current working through it; some of the paintings pay direct tribute to the florescence of humanity with their depictions of religious saints and prophets: other paintings inspire us with figures of archetypal grandeur along with landscapes from various geographical locations around the world expressing the power and splendor of nature.

This museum holds the beautiful and often visionary work of the Russian born artist Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947)  The mission of the Roerich museum is stated on its website, follow this link: https://www.roerich.org/  

The mission of the Nicholas Roerich Museum is essentially a narrow one: to make available to the public the full range of Roerich’s accomplishments. These, however, are not narrow; they cover the realms of art, science, spirituality, peacemaking, and more. Because Roerich’s activities ranged widely, so do the Museum’s.

For a full biographical sketch of the life and work of Nicolas Roerich see the museum website.

1 russian musician igor stravinsky mary evans picture library

Igor Stravinsky

Still here are a few interesting facts about Roerich’s work and life that one can explore more fully:The Rite of Spring, the ballet and orchestral concert work by the famous Russian composer Igor Stravinsky was written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes company; the original choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky with stage designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich.

Nicholas Roerich initiated the modern movement for the defense of cultural objects, for the idea of "Peace of Civilizations". Besides the recognition as one of the great Russian painters, an internationally notable achievement during his lifetime was the Roerich Pact signed on 15 April 1935 by the representatives of American States in the Oval Office of the White House (Washington, DC). It was the first international treaty signed in the Oval Office. The most important idea of the Roerich Pact is the legal recognition that the defense of cultural objects is more important than the use or destruction of that culture for military purposes and the protection of culture always has precedence over any military necessity.

Helena Roerich the wife of Nicholas was a known thinker, author and working partner with Nicholas. The two started the Agni Yoga Society and furthermore, Helena Roerich translated Madam Blavatsky’s major theosophical work The Secret Doctrine from English into Russian in the 1930s.

It turns out that Roerich was as prolific a writer as he was a painter, writing essays, books and poems. Many of his writings that have been out of print for decades are now available again on Amazon due to the work of the Roerich Museum.

A few lines from a poem concerning the Eternal shines some light on his spiritual philosophy,

Brother, let us abandon

all that rapidly changes.

Otherwise we will not have time

to turn our thoughts to that

which is changeless for all.

To the eternal.

Although Roerich’s paintings, numbering in the thousands,  can be found all over the world in museums, galleries and private collections the samples of his work here were all viewed on the walls of the Roerich Museum in NYC on September 29, 2023.

It is well worth exploring the life and work of this 20th century “Renaissance Man.”

All photos © David M. Grossman 

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Metal disc on wall with Roerich Quote 

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During the Second World War, the Roerichs developed friendly relations with the family of the future first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and he , and his daughter Indira Gandhi, made several visits to the Roerich estate. Left to right: Jawaharlal Nehru, Svetoslav Roerich, Indira Gandhi, Nicholas Roerich, with parasol: Helena Roerich, Naggar, India 1942

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Entrance to Nicholas Roerich Museum at 319 W. 107th St.

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Interior staircase from 2nd to 3rd floor galleries

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Gallery, UNSPILLED CHALICE, 1927 (central painting)

Tree of life 

TREE OF LIFE, 1913 “Tree of Life” sketch of the mosaic panel for Kuindzhiʼs memorial

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THE COMMAND, 1917, oil on canvas

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THE LAST ANGEL, 1912, Tempera on cardboard

Pearls

PEARLS OF SEARCHING, 1924 Tempera on canvas

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TREASURE OF THE WORLD, 1924, Tempera on canvas

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MOTHER OF THE WORLD, 1924 Tempera on canvas

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KRISHNA, 1929 Tempera on canvas

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NICHOLAS ROERICH, by Svetoslav Roerich, 1937 The Portrait of Nicholas Roerich with the Sculpture of Guga Chohan by Svyatoslav Roerich, (his son)1937

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HELENA ROERICH, 1937 by Svetoslav Roerich

 

 

 

 

 

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