Saturday, June 25, 2011

Roerich Museum: 107th St and Riverside Dr

How could I be so completely oblivious to the works of Nicholas Roerich?  I had never even heard of him until a friend of mine, knowing that I write this blog, told me about the Nicholas Roerich Museum.  Once I started looking into his work, I was awed.  He was a philosopher, "prophet", writer, traveler, theatrical costume designer, treaty writer (unity by sharing cultural beauty is the basis of The Roerich Pact signed on by members of the Pan American Union in 1935), and most notably a prolific painter (there are over 7,000 paintings just from his India period).

The museum is located in a beautiful brownstone on 107th Street and Riverside Drive and is filled to the rafters with Roerich paintings, mostly Nicholas' but a few (like the portrait of Nicholas at right) by his son Svetoslav.  The home also has artifacts from Tibet and the Himalayas -- Buddhas, tables, architectural salvage, etc.

What most people find really compelling is the way Nicholas Roerich's paintings are of this world, but are so "other-worldly".  The stark mountains and clouds of the Himalayas could be on a scene from a moon of Mars (see left).  It almost appears like the Tibetan huts could be from a Star Wars movie and sand people could come out at any moment. 

Then there is my favorite piece, called "The Most Sacred" or "Treasure of the Mountain," which reminds me of Superman's Fortress of Solitude (see right).  There is an inner light that emanates from Roerich's paintings that really can't be captured in photos.  You have to see them in person.

To be frank, this is not my favorite type of art, but I can appreciate its beauty and drama.  If you are a fan of this kind of surreal art, you should definitely go (check Roerich Museum Info for times; it is always free).  However, even if you aren't into this, I still think it is worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood (it really is a pretty neighborhood--much safer than it used to feel in the late 90s).  I would recommend doing a little background reading on their website before going, as unfortunately there aren't really any guides or literature there.

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