Cosmic consciousness and the earthly path of Nicholas Roerich

The exhibition was attended by several museums in Moscow, St. Petersburg and even New York. However, this event is significant, of course, not on an external scale. Such a voluminous exposition combines global themes and reveals phenomena of a high, literally cosmic order. 

Having become famous as the “master of the mountains” with mystical landscapes of the Himalayan heights, Nicholas Roerich ended his earthly days in their environment. With thoughts until the last days of his life, striving for his homeland, he died in Naggar, in the Kullu valley in the Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, India). At the site of the funeral pyre in the Kullu Valley, a stone was erected with a commemorative inscription: “The body of Maharishi Nicholas Roerich, the great friend of India, was burnt at this place on the 30th Maghar, 2004 of the Vikram era, corresponding to December 15, 1947. OM RAM (Let there be peace).

The title of Maharishi is a recognition of the spiritual heights achieved by the artist. Earthly death in the Himalayas is, as it were, a symbolic external personification of the internal ascent. The principle of “ascension”, introduced by the curators in the title of the exhibition, within the framework of the exposition turns out to be organizing not only from a formal point of view, but also, as it were, builds perception on all planes. As if it emphasizes the unity of the artist’s path and the inseparable connection between the inner and the outer, the earthly and the heavenly… Both in life and in the work of Nicholas Roerich.

The curators of the project, Tigran Mkrtychev, director of the Roerich Museum, and Dmitry Popov, chief curator of the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York, positioned the exhibition “Nicholas Roerich. Climbing” as the first experience of an exhibition-research of its kind. The study, from an academic point of view, was indeed a massive one. More than 190 works by Nicholas Roerich from the State Russian Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Museum of Oriental Art and 10 paintings from the Museum of Nicholas Roerich in New York – a grandiose cut of the artist’s work.

The authors of the exposition sought to present in as much detail and objectively as possible all stages of the life and work of Nicholas Roerich. Structured in chronological order, these stages represented the first, the outer plane of creative ascent. Careful selection and the nature of the exhibiting of works made it possible to trace the origin of the main motives of creativity, the formation of the unique style and personality of the artist. And observing the development of these motifs at different stages, moving from one exhibition hall to another, visitors could make a symbolic ascent, following in the footsteps of the creator.

Already the beginning of Roerich’s path as an artist is distinguished by originality. His works in the historical genre were presented in the first hall of the exposition. As a member of the Russian Archaeological Society, Roerich in his paintings on subjects from Russian history shows a wide knowledge of historical material and at the same time a deeply personal view. At the same stage, Roerich travels around the country and captures ancient Orthodox churches, and also directly participates in the painting of churches and other architectural monuments. The unique material of the exhibition is these so-called “portraits” of churches. The artist depicts a close-up of one of the chapels or the domed part of the cathedral, but at the same time, in an amazing way, conveys the mystery, symbolism and depth of the architectural object.

The deep inner symbolism of Roerich’s paintings and specific techniques in his painting then turn out to be connected with the motives of Orthodox and religious culture in general. For example, it is the principle of planar perspective, characteristic of icon painting, that in Roerich’s work is developed in the way of depicting nature. The symbolic plane image of mountains on Roerich’s canvases creates a mystical, as it were, super-real volume.

The development of these motives is associated with a deep meaning and the main spiritual and moral directions of Roerich’s work. In the symbolic historicism of the first stage of creativity, one sees the germ of subsequent ideas about the spiritual history of the planet as its “internal history”, which are included in the code of the Living Ethics teaching.

These motifs are united in the central part of the exhibition dedicated to the main themes of the life and work of the artist – spiritual perfection, the role of spiritual culture in the cosmic evolution of mankind and the need to preserve cultural values. This is a symbolic “transition” to the inner plane, to the theme of spiritual ascent. Within the framework of the exhibition, the Light of Heaven hall, dedicated to the artist’s paintings on spiritual themes, as well as the works resulting from the Asian expedition, travels to India, Mongolia, and Tibet, becomes such a transition.

Despite the grandiose volume of the exhibition, the authors of the exposition managed to observe a fine line and balance: to present Roerich’s work as exhaustively as possible and leave space for free internal research and deep immersion. That is, to create a space in which, as on Roerich’s canvases, there is a place for a person.

Seeker man. A person striving for higher knowledge and spiritual perfection. After all, it is man, according to the Living Ethics, the main teaching of Elena Ivanovna and Nicholas Roerich, “is the source of knowledge and the most powerful implementer of the Cosmic Forces,” since he is an integral “part of the Cosmic energy, part of the elements, part of the mind, part of the consciousness of higher matter.”

The exposition “Nicholas Roerich. Climbing”, symbolizing the result of life and the quintessence of the artist’s work, the famous images of the Himalayan ranges. A meeting with the same mountain world that Roerich managed to discover and capture like no other.

As the writer Leonid Andreev said about Nikolai Konstantinovich: “Columbus discovered America – another piece of the same familiar Earth, continued the already drawn line. And he is still praised for it. What can be said about a man who, among the visible, discovers the invisible and gives people not a continuation of the old, but a completely new, most beautiful world. New whole world! Yes, it exists, this wonderful world! This is the power of Roerich, of which he is the only king and ruler!

Returning each time to the work of Roerich, you realize that the borders of this power are boundless. They rush to infinity, irresistibly attract to the cosmic perspective, eternal movement and ascent. 

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