“When humanity is possessed by the devils of malice and mutual destruction, every token of affirmativeness and mutual help is especially valuable.” Nicholas Roerich.
On the north side of 107th Street, one building east of Riverside Park, stands the Nicholas Roerich Museum. The house is its own work of art. Paintings and artifacts decorate the walls and stairways of the three floors that are open to the public.
Roerich was a painter, philosopher, writer, archeologist, stage designer, and firm believer in the power of art and spirituality to cure the plagues that have infected humanity, in his time and ours. His spiritual curiosity was sufficiently diverse that subjects of his paintings include Mohammed, Elijah, The Mother of the World, The Spirit of the Himalayas, and St. Francis of Assisi. The building was once home to his Master Institute of United Arts and now serves as a gallery for over 150 of his paintings as well as hosting a regular schedule of concerts and poetry readings. It also includes a small bookshop where I picked up a copy of his book The Invincible for $4.
With his wife Helena, he founded the Agni Yoga school of mysticism in 1920. They also traveled extensively through Asia, including a 1934-35 expedition through Manchuria, sponsored by the US Dept. of Agriculture which was headed by Henry Wallace who would go on to become FDR’s vice-president. The purpose of the expedition was to collect seeds and they collected over 300 species, as well as uncovering important ancient manuscripts.
|A view up the stairwell|
Roerich’s belief in the power of art led him to develop the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments, also known as The Roerich Pact. From Wikipedia:
The most important idea of the Roerich Pact is the legal recognition that the defense of cultural objects is more important than the use or destruction of that culture for military purposes, and the protection of culture always has precedence over any military necessity.
He was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize in 1929, 1932, and 1935.
As the man’s art, both paintings and writings, can speak eloquently for themselves, the following are examples of both.
|Lord of the Night
|Mother of the World|
|Most Sacred (Treasure of the Mountains)|
|Star of the Hero|
One final note on these paintings – photography does not do them justice. They should be seen on the walls of the museum, among themselves. The Nicholas Roerich Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 12-5 and on the weekends from 2-5. Closed Mondays. Admission is free, donations accepted.