Painter, scientist, traveler, public figure, writer and philosopher, Nikolai Roerich, was a man of many talents. No wonder his Moscow museum is as unusual and multi-faceted as the man himself was.
Although his museum is housed in a 17th-century mansion in the city center, Roerich himself had few links to Moscow. He was born in St. Petersburg in 1874. At an early age, he became interested in painting, history and archaeology – the interests that would become lifelong passions.
Roerich’s father did not want him to pursue painting as a career, preferring law as a vocation for his son. So the young man studied both, without forgetting his love for archaeology.
While still a student, he had already become a member of the Russian archeological society and conducted numerous excavations around St. Petersburg and surrounding areas. His early paintings were very much inspired by Russian history and landscapes, as well as by ancient legends and fairytales.
After the Revolution, Roerich and his wife lived abroad, in Scandinavia, the UK and the US, designing stage scenery for several Russian opera performances and going on exhibition tours. In the 1920s he realized his lifelong dream of going on a scientific expedition to India and the Himalayas. Many of his paintings were inspired by this trip, which also proved to be a long spiritual journey.
Fascinated by the philosophers of the East, Roerich devised an entire philosophical and ethical teaching, called Living Ethics, with a following around the world. He continued to live and work in India, where he died in 1947.
Nicholas Roerich is remembered as an advocate of the arts and culture and as a man who initiated an international pact for the protection of artistic and academic institutions and historical sites. He left behind some seven thousand paintings and dozens of books and essays. And Moscow’s Roerich museum offers a captivating look at his life and legacy.
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