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EVENING SALE | LIVE AUCTION, MUMBAI
13 MARCH 2018
Rs 80,00,000 - 1,00,00,000
$125,000 - 156,250
Signed in Russian with artist's monogram (lower right); inscribed '152' (on the reverse)
Tempera on board
11.5 x 17.25 in (29.2 x 43.8 cm)
NON-EXPORTABLE NATIONAL ART TREASURE
Acquired directly from the artist's son
H K Kejriwal Collection
Gifted to the present owner
Property from The Kejriwal Family Collection, Kolkata
The "Master of Mountains," Nicholas Roerich was a noted writer, theosophist and prolific artist from Russia, who made India his home. In his many expeditions across the mountainous terrains of Central Asia and the Himalayan range during the 1930s and '40s, Roerich came across wondrous sights that inspired a wealth of paintings and memoirs. Roerich's eloquent writing reflects his spiritual connection with the mountains. This awe and wonder is captured even more strikingly in his paintings, as seen in the present lot.
In this painting, Roerich depicts snow-capped mountain peaks at twilight, with their multi-hued lighting. Subtle shades of pink and mauve emerge as the waning light hits the terrain. In this masterful study of light and shadow, Roerich gives careful attention to every topographical detail. Rocky ridges and snowy dunes invite the viewer to experience this moody landscape as he would have.
The present lot was painted when the artist resided in Naggar, a village in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Roerich was fascinated with the East, and India in particular, since his childhood when he first came across, and grew to admire, an old family painting of a majestic mountain. He later discovered that it was the famous Kanchenjunga in the Himalayan range, which he eventually trekked across and painted in his later years. Quoting from the Chinese book, Wei Tsang T'u-Shih, in his diary in 1924, he writes, "The luster of the mountain peaks is equal unto emerald. Verily the beauty and perfection of all objects make this place incomparable." (Altai-Himalaya: A Travel Diary, Part I India, New York: Nicholas Roerich Museum, online)
In many of the paintings from this time, "we can see philosophical concepts and ideas giving birth to visual images, and the splendor of Northern India providing the physical setting." (Nicholas Roerich Museum, online) His paintings successfully communicate not just the physical magnificence and ethereal atmosphere, but also evoke the spirit of the Himalayas, as seen in the present lot. As with his writings, they are a symbolic reflection of his own spiritual journey and the strength of character he acquired, facing the physical challenges of his arduous expeditions.
Roerich's expeditions, which covered India, Chinese Turkestan, Altai, Mongolia and Tibet, resulted from the artist's desire to understand spiritual and anthropological elements of Eastern cultures. This sentiment was also evident in some of his early Russian paintings which were often re-imagined and recreated scenes incorporating Russian history, myths, and traditions, prompted by an interest in the "ancient origins of human civilisation." (Maria Zinger-Golovkina, "Painting. Late 19th to the early 20th century", Irina Volchenkova ed., Masterpieces of the State Tretyakov Gallery: Russian Art from the 12th to early 20th century, Moscow: Red Square Publishers, p. 114)
Roerich's contribution to Indian art was so great that he is the only artist of foreign origin whose works have been declared national art treasures. The artist is a highly revered figure internationally, and most of his paintings are in public institutions in the US, Russia and India. Roerich's Himalayan-inspired works have sold at formidable prices in recent times, and the present lot is a rare and significant work to be offered at auction in India.
THE KEJRIWAL FAMILY
The present lot is from the collection of the Kejriwal family of Kolkata. The Kejriwals own tea plantations and textile mills, and are renowned for their extensive art collection. The family's history of collecting art dates back to Mr Ram Kumar Kejriwal, who first began acquiring artwork in the 1940s. His son, H K Kejriwal, elaborates that he was "an eminent collector who was fascinated by Indian Art at a young age. It was his passion which inspired him to build a collection of unique, varied and rare art objects ranging from Indian miniature paintings, Bengal school of paintings to bronzes, terracottas, stone sculptures, stuccos, etc. He collected for more than half a century and donated very rare pieces of sculptures to the National Museum, New Delhi and Ashutosh Museum, Calcutta." (H K Kejriwal, H.K. Kejriwal Collection 1830-1995, Bangalore: Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, 1996, p. 3)
H K Kejriwal moved to Bangalore in 1971, and struck up a friendship with Svetoslav Roerich, son of Nicholas, who was then shuffling between his family home in Naggar, Kullu Valley, and Bangalore. "He became a very close friend of mine. I was fortunate enough to acquire from him some of his finest works as well as those of his internationally renowned father, Nicholas Roerich." (Kejriwal, p. 3) Over the following decade, many works were acquired from Svetoslav, including the present lot, which has been with the family since.
The Kejriwal family's greatest legacy is the donation of more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures to the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, a significant art institution in Bangalore. Svetoslav, also a supporter of the institute, donated over a 100 of his own and his father's paintings to the Parishath in 1990 as well. They are now in the permanent collection of the Roerich galleries in the Parishath.