The Humanitarian Painter

Tucked away down a quiet street on the Upper West Side of New York City is a little museum that is dedicated completely to the life and work of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.

Old Pskov, Tempera on Cardboard, 1936

Full of vibrant self-expression and displaying a penchant for spiritual matters, Roerich’s work brings together a keen, sophisticated use of color (through his preferred media of choice—tempera) with spiritual themes, symbols and wonderment.

Song Of The Morning, Decorative Panel, Dreams of Wisdom Series, Tempera on Canvas, 1920

Seeking to depart from his native St. Petersburg and share his work with the wider world, he traveled extensively, eventually landing in New York as President and Founder of his own Master Institute and Museum. From there, a fortuitous invitation to further travel abroad with the US Department of State to study and conduct research took him to far flung and exotic locales such as Central Asia, Kashmir, Mongolia and Tibet among others. Eventually he settled with his family permanently in Naggar, India, from where he continued on expeditions until his death in 1947.

Roerich Exhibit 5
Tibet, Himalayas, Tempera on Canvas, 1933
Roerich Exhibit 8
Himalayas (Kanchejunga), Tempera on Canvas, 1933

In addition to being a prolific painter, he applied his skills to the theatre, conceiving and designing costumes and sets for lavish European play productions.

Roerich Exhibit 2
Hut in The Mountains, Stage Design for "Peer Gynt," Mixed Media on Cardboard, 1931
Roerich Exhibit 4
Polovtsian Camp, Stage Design for "Prince Igor," Tempera on Cardboard, 1943

A true Renaissance man, he easily embodied the roles of artist, writer, philosopher, archeologist, religious influencer and public figure. His biggest feat by far was the historic outcome of his personal vision for humanity; his desire to unite the world in art and culture resulted in a special treaty, known as The Roerich Pact. The signing of this pact by the nations of the Americas who were members of the Pan American Union took place in the White House on April 15, 1935. It is a testament to his strength of conviction and compassion that the treaty remains in force today as it promotes awareness of the Pact, the special banner that represents it and the underlying principles that are its foundation, that of a common cultural language and united view of beauty and knowledge.

Karakirghizes, Tempera on Canvas, 1932

The Nicholas Roerich Museum is a glimpse into an erudite man who sought to bring the planet together through his unique vision, his respect for the spiritual and his great love of all humanity and the intrinsic value of everything around him.

Glory To The Hero, Tempera on Canvas, 1933