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Russian painter, philosopher Nicholas Roerich in new book

Friday, 15 March 2013 04:41

Russian painter and philosopher over 60 years ago, trekked through the Himalayas journeying through monasteries in India and meeting with Buddhist monks, an experience which resulted in "magnificent" paintings of the great mountains.

The legacy of the man who made India his home settling down in the country in the last days of his life till he died in 1947 and whose life and works significantly influenced modern art and culture is captured in a new anthology of writings "Nicholas Roerich: A Quest and A Legacy" edited by Manju Kak, an art critic and writer.

The collection of 21 scholarly articles on the master painter effectively presenting Roerich's life and multifaceted personality from various perspectives was launched here late last evening in the presence of Russian ambassador Alexander M Kadakin.

Through his body of work, Roerich advocated a return to the ancient roots of human wisdom, which asserted the importance of spiritual life and of peaceful co-existence based on cosmic mentality.

"Living as we are in the metropolis we have lost touch with the mysterious, as one is involved in the daily chores of life, the most subtle dimension of human life often get missed...I hope this book volume will reignite the past in our consciousness an awareness of what the Himalayas mean not only for India but all over the world," said Karan Singh, President, Indian Council of Cultural Relations at the launch.

"Nicholas Roerich was an unusual person. A person in touch with higher powers... his figures of the master, of the lamas and his paintings indicate that. Roerich continues to live in our hearts... his force is there... he wants us to work together to salvage his legacy," said Singh.

According to Singh the massive corpus of Roerich's work presents a unique dimension of spiritual striving and realisation, which will remain a source of inspiration for many years to come.

"It was time now that we should rediscover the genius of Nicholas Roerich and revisit the saga of his amazing life," he said.

Editor Manju Kak said Roerich's body of work has been divided into three periods by some critics.

The first, Russian period is where Roerich dwells largely on Russian peoples' Slavic heritage and their pre-Christian ties with Celtic,Viking and the Mongol tradition. The second is the theatrical period and the third, the 'mountain' phase are the three distinct phases presented in the book.

"There are many admirers of Roerich and this is perhaps the first Indian tribute to the Russian painter who understood the Indian soul," said Kak, who has been particularly drawn to Himalayan ethnography and culture and has researched and curated exhibitions on the subject.

Kak quoted Roerich's own words "India and Russia are old souls where the heart speaks to heart and in the vast wild barren spaces there is a certain cadence and because of this Roerich understood that part of the Indian mind which is perennially embedded in the Himalayas."

Lokesh Chandra, a scholar said he first saw Roerich as a young boy at an exhibition, "I first saw his paintings of the Himalayas as a young boy in Lahore where his exhibition was held. He captured the spirit of the mountains, portraying their ever changing moods and colours."

A 40 minute film titled "Messenger of Beauty" by the Theosophical Society of America, based on the life and paintings of Roerich was also screened.

The film dwelt on the life and work of Roerich, born Russia to a lawyer father. He formally learnt law as well was interested in art architecture and archaeology. He went on to paint thousands of paintings, 7,000 of which have been formally catalogued.

The film shows the mystery and drama characterised in most of Roerich's paintings. Between 1902-1904 he undertook tours inside Russia and started painting monuments, paint crumbling buildings and appealed to the Russian Government to preserve these priceless links to the past.

Between 1906-1909 Roreich received many awards and honours in his country and in 1907 he showed an exhibition of 113 paintings in Paris.

The documentary, says by 1910 he had travelled most of Europe and began a career as a successful stage designer with composer poets of his period. He designed oversized murals for ballets, plays and drama.

He got invited to the United States and toured 29 cities for a year and a half and set up many institutes there.

The film dwelt on the influence of Theosophy, Vedanta, Buddhism, and other mystical strains of thought seen not only in his paintings, but in his poetry and philosophy.

Meanwhile, priced at Rs 1495 the book has been brought out by Niyogi Books.

New Delhi, Mar 14, 2013 (PTI)

Rich Tributes to the great Russian Painter Niyogi Books launches Nicholas Roerich: A Quest & A Legacy

Report by Santanu Ganguly, New Delhi: Rich tributes were paid to the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich at a launch of and discussion on Niyogi Books’ new publication Nicholas Roerich: A Quest & A Legacy, edited by renowned short story writer, ManjuKak at the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi on last evening.

Organised jointly by the IIC and Niyogi Books, the function was attended by Dr. Karan Singh, former Union Minister and President, ICCR as the Chief Guest and His Excellency Alexander M.Kadakin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to India as the Guest of Honour.

Nicholas Roerich: A Quest & A Legacyis a collection of 21 scholarly articles on the master painter who continues to arouse the interest of extensive scholarship and effectively presents Roerich’s life and multifaceted personality.

Through these writings, one hopes to come to a holistic understanding of the man and his times.

According to Dr. Karan Singh the massive corpus of Roerich’s work presents a unique dimension of spiritual striving and realization, which will remain a source of inspiration for many years to come. It was time now that we should rediscover the genius of Nicholas Roerich and revisit the saga of his amazing life. Roerich’s body of work has been divided into three periods by some critics, says ManjuKak and adds that his first, the Russian period, the second,the theatrical period and the third, the ‘mountain’ phase are the three distinct phases presented in the book. Through his body of work Roerich advocated a return to the ancient roots of human wisdom, which asserted the importance of spiritual life and of peaceful co-existence based on cosmic mentality.

The Editor, Manju Kak, the editor has been particularly drawn to Himalayan ethnography and culture and has researched and curated exhibitions on the subject.She has also directed a documentary film, They Who Walked Mountains about the erstwhile salt trade routes from India to Tibet. Her fiction, essays and articles have appeared in newspapers, journals anthologies and magazines in India and abroad.

The Publisher, Niyogi Books has, in a short span of time, established itself as a publisher of fine illustrated books. Starting out in 2004, it has about 200 books on its active list. Niyogi Books is recognised for its high-qualityillustrated books on a range of subjects from art and photography to heritage, culture and the history ofSouth Asia. These books have won several awards and prizes including those from the Federation ofIndian Publishers. Some of its books have been shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Vodafone-Crossword Book Award.

Nicholas Roerich: A Quest & A Legacy

Publisher: Niyogi Books

ISBN: 978-93-81523-52-0

Pages: 260

Photographs:129

Hardbound with dust jacket

Price: INR 1495/-

Thursday, March 14, 2013

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