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NIKOLAI KONSTANTINOVICH ROERICH
Himalayas, 1940 unframed
£250,000 - 300,000
RUB 20,000,000 - 24,000,000
THE RUSSIAN SALE
LONDON, NEW BOND STREET
Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947)
signed with artist's monogram (lower right); further titled, signed and numbered '53' (on verso)
tempera on canvas
47.5 x 79cm (18 11/16 x 31 1/8in).
Acquired by the grandfather of the present owner directly from the artist, c. 1930
Himalayas was painted during the last decade of Nikolai Roerich's life, which he spent in his estate in Kullu, a Western Himalayan valley located in Himachal Pradesh. During this time (1938–1947) he created about fourteen hundred paintings, a staggering output that marks a distinct and productive stage in his career. The majority of works from this period are currently in museums in Russia and India; the rest are mostly in private collections in India. There, in 1979, Roerich's paintings were declared national "art treasures" and were therefore banned from export. The present lot is one of the very few paintings from this period in private hands outside India.
Nikolai Roerich is the only non-Indian of a total of nine artists whose works in India have been elevated to the highest status of national treasures. He is recognized unanimously as the unsurpassed "Master of Mountains," particularly regarding his beloved Himalaya. Roerich came to India in 1923 and spent his first year there painting Himalayan vistas that opened up from Darjeeling, as well as views from travels through Sikkim and Nepal. It was during this time that he found a renewed sense of creativity and artistic inspiration. For a philosopher and mystic, such as he was his whole life, the mountains were the best earthly counterparts to the shapes and sounds of the world's intangible subtleties. Their majestic forms helped him tell the story of his spiritual journey in terms that people from all walks of life could understand and connect to. In his own words: "Where can one find words with which to praise the Creator, after seeing the incomparable beauty of the Himalayas? ... Along the paths of the Guru, along the peaks of the Rishi, along the mountain paths of the pilgrims of the spirit, lies that treasure, which no torrents of rain can wear away, nor any lightning turn to ashes. He who walks towards the Good, is blessed on all paths."
The present work is a quintessential example of Roerich's Himalayan landscapes. He depicts his timeless surroundings as a place of extremes. On one hand, you have the strong, dark blue outlines in the foreground that indicate a harsh, forbidding landscape. On the other, the mountain peaks in the background are treated with such lightness and delicacy that they seem almost to disappear into the sky above. The rich, nuanced range of blue tones exemplifies his intimate knowledge of how light transforms the mountain landscape. He is able to capture the moment when the pale dawn touches the rough rock faces and brings them to life. The present work constitutes a rare masterpiece by Roerich from the final period of his creative life.
The verso of the painting bears the markings of the artist characteristic for this period. The title Himalayas and the signature are indisputably in his own hand. The number 53 enclosed in the double triangle corresponds to the list of his paintings for the year 1940. The numbers 11 and 25 most likely refer to the catalogue numbers of the exhibitions in India to which this painting was sent during the period between 1940 and 1947.
We are grateful to Gvido Trepša, Senior Researcher at the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York, for his assistance in researching the present lot and for providing this note.
Lot 49 of 80
EVENING SALE | LIVE AUCTION, NEW DELHI
21 SEPTEMBER 2017
Rs 1,20,00,000 - 1,80,00,000
$190,480 - 285,715
(Inclusive of Buyer's Premium)
Signed in Russian with artist's monogram (lower right); signed 'N. Roerich' and inscribed 'Himalayas/ 53' (on the reverse)
Tempera on canvas
18.25 x 30.75 in (46.4 x 78 cm)
NON-EXPORTABLE NATIONAL ART TREASURE
Acquired directly from the artist, Indore
Thence by descent
Property of a Lady, India