Nicholas Roerich (1874 – 1947)

Krishna - Spring in Kulu detail by Nicholas Roerich

A person who has popped up continually in my path over decades is Nicholas Roerich.  It’s uncanny.  Initially one of my art school teachers, looking at my style and interests, recommended him.  I came across a newly-published coffee-table book about him in a bookstore but balked at the price.  When my late partner and I toured around India in 1985-86, we found ourselves strolling past the house he retired to in Kulu Valley, and during the same trip spotted newspaper reports about the settling of his son’s estate of the artist’s work.  In 1998 I came across the coffee-table book remaindered in a museum gift shop in Montreal, riffled through it, and bought it, realizing only later that it was a French translation.  A fascinating history of the “Great Game” in Central Asia called “Tournament of Shadows” (by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac) that I happened across, was bookended by accounts of William Moorcroft (a story for another time) and… Nicholas Roerich.  I’ve begun to stalk him, to try and spot his ambush before I walk into it.  I have a copy of his travel book “Altai Himalaya”.  A couple of years ago I determined to pay a lightning visit to New York City to attend a lecture and meet in person someone I’d worked with, part of that other story.  Also on my agenda was a tapestry exhibition at the Met, and a visit to the Roerich museum, but fortunately I got talked into trekking up to the Cloisters to see the “Hunt of the Unicorn” tapestries, mistakenly got on the wrong subway train coming back, ran out of time, and missed the Roerich museum – guess it wasn’t meant to be, right then.  I don’t know what you know about Roerich, a Theosophist I think, and I’ve left out a lot of background, but… my consistent view is that I don’t wish to have my future foretold, but I would love to know what the heck is going on here.

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~ by Peter Harris on 05/03/2011.

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