Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) was a cultural leader of global significance. He is known primarily as an artist. Early in his career, his art focused primarily upon the ancient Slavs and Norse in the Stone Age. These paintings were inspired by the archaeological research he conducted at ancient Russian battle sites. He would soon become head of the arcaheological society in St. Petersburg. Roerich was not merely an artist. He attended the Academy of Art and also simultaneously studied law at the University of St. Petersburg. After graduating, Roerich continued researching the Russian past. He toured several Russian cities, where he restored many decaying church frescoes in the traditional style. Roerich also worked with Igor Stravinsky, using his knowledge of ancient Russia to help him come up with the idea for the ballet, Sacre du Primtemps or the Rite of Spring. Roerich also painted the set and designed the costumes for the ballet.
Roerich travelled extensively in the following years, to the United States, and later to India and Central Asia. In the United States, he founded the Corona Mundi Institutefor the promotion of the arts in New York City. In this period of travel his painting began to enter a period of metamorphosis. Roerich began to use clor more brilliantly, making his paintings resemble eastern painting more and more. His subjects tended to be more mythical and religious, rather than historical. Roerich began to paint thinkers and leaders, such as Jesus, Moses, Zoroaster, Milarepa, St. Francis, Lao Tzu, and so on. During this time, Roerich also found time to participate in the Agni Yoga Society with his wife and Helena Roerich - "the mother of Agni Yoga." The Agni Yoga Society became popular among followers of Madame Blatvasky and Theosophy. Roerich began publishing his written works starting during this time, which included a collection of poems entitled Flame In Chalice. Other works that followed included travel/archaelogical research diaries and religious and philosophical works. Some of these include The Invincible, Adamant, Fiery Stronghold, Shambhala, Heart of Asia, Altai-Himalaya, Diary Leaves and many other works. Roerich also authored the Roerich Peace Pact, which was signed by President Roosevelt in 1930 The Pact sought ot preserve cultural sites in all nations during times of war. Roerich soon travelled to India so he could trek through Central Asia via Tibet. This trek served many purposes, the Roerichs were to study the people of central Asia - Roerich was to both paint and write extensively during the trip. George Roerich, his son, was to assist him, as he was a premier Indian philologist.
Roerich was a true master. Prolific as an artist, philosopher, poet, cultural and political leader, and educator. Nicholas Roerich is one of the most important cultural figures to still remain unstudied and obscure. To learn more visit the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City, or their website online.