St Moritz, numbered "286" on the reverse and further labelled.
Tempera on board, 30.5 by 40.5 cm.
Provenance: Roerich Museum, New York, USA, 1923-1935.
Nettie and Louis Horch collection, USA, from 1935.
Giro collection, USA.
Gift from the above to the present owner.
Private collection, USA.
Exhibited: Roerich Museum, New York, USA (permanent collection), 1924-1935, No. 286.
Literature: F. Grant et al., Roerich, Himalaya, A Monograph, New York, Brentano, 1926, p. 199.
Roerich Museum Catalogue, New York, Roerich Museum, 1930, p. 18, No. 286.
The present lot is one of five works that the artist executed during a stay in St Moritz, Switzerland, in July and August of 1923. These studies are Nicholas Roerich’s first attempt at rendering high mountains and, as such, they present a unique moment in Roerich’s creative evolution. At the end of that year, he would go to India, and from 1924 onwards, mountain scenery would become the defining signature of his work.
Roerich’s travels in Central Asia transformed his whole style of painting and more than a thousand canvasses of mountain vistas earned him a reputation as the ultimate “master of the mountains.” Here, however, the brush is still in the hand of the early Roerich, the famous artist of the Vrubel and Bakst generation and integral member of the Russian art scene of the beginning of the 20th century. He had never painted high mountains before, and one can see that he is on unfamiliar ground. There is some uncertainty in his brushstroke and colour choices, as he is experimenting with how to contain the monolithic force and magnitude of mountains. Three other studies in this series are direct reproductions of postcard scenery, but this sketch is much more personal and inquisitive. By condensing the perspective, Roerich tries to convey the awe one feels at the foot of a mountain range. As one of the very first representations of mountains in Roerich's body of work, this sketch is of utmost interest for both knowledgable and amateur lovers of Roerich’s art alike.
We are grateful to Gvido Trepљa, Senior researcher at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York, for providing catalogue information.