Nicholas Roerich
from Russia to the Himalayas


28th September 2007 – 6th January 2008

Painter, archaeologist, explorer, visionary, peace activist Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) was a remarkable artist and humanist, Russian, born in St Petersburg but above all a cosmopolitan, domiciled for the last decades of his life in the Himalayas.

The Dance Museum’s latest tranche from the great treasure house of Russian art takes the form of an exhibition devoted to the life and work of Nicholas Roerich. Most of the paintings on show have been lent to us by the Roerich Museum in Moscow, but also included are items from our own world-famous collection of Ballets Russes costumes, namely costumes from the two sensational ballets for which Roerich designed the scenery: Sacre du Printemps (1913) and The Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor (1909).

The Dance Museum exhibition concentrates on the two themes with which Roerich was passionately concerned: pagan Russia, and the majestic, colourful landscapes of Central Asia, the Himalayas especially. The two are interlinked by the sense of a mystical primitive past.

Roerich’s interest in archaic, pre-Christian Russia resulted in early archaeological expeditions and journeys to the ancient Russian cities, and engendered a passion for traditional art that is present in all his painting and stage designs. Parallel to his painting, he worked during the 1910s for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris and in other theatres, but with the passing of time he became more and more attracted to anthropology, archaeology and mysticism. He migrated to Karelia, Finland, in 1916 and also lived in other countries, including Sweden in 1918 (he had a separate exhibition at the Gummeson Art Gallery in Stockholm in November of that year). He met Rabindranath Tagore in London in 1919 and later came under the spell of India and the Himalayas.

During the early 1920s he spent a lot of time in America, exhibiting and teaching. He made a big name for himself there and in 1924 opened a Roerich Museum in New York, but his anthropological travels in Asia were claiming more and more of his attention and energies. They lasted for nearly 25 years, and from 1928 onwards he headed a research station at Kulu in the Himalayas.

Roerich devoted much effort to the cause of greater international understanding, one of his initiatives to this end being the introduction, in New York in 1929, of the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace, aimed at protecting monuments, institutions and other cultural treasures in both wartime and peacetime. The Pact, often referred to as the Red Cross of Culture, was signed in Washington in 1935 by representatives of 21 nations in the presence of President Roosevelt and subsequently formed the basis of the 1954 Hague Convention.

Roerich devoted the last two decades of his life to research expeditions in Central Asia and a flurry of painterly creativity in his Himalayan home. He painted the lofty mountain peaks of the Himalayas, the far-flung landscapes and their peoples, together with their history, legends and spiritual traditions. His often monumental paintings, with their harmonious composition and forceful colouring, have attracted growing international interest in recent years, like the philosopher and humanist Roerich himself.

The Dance Museum’s autumn of Russian art will be accompanied by concerts and other programme activities.

Gustav Adolfs torg 22–24, Stockholm, Sweden

Opening hours:

October – April
Tuesday–Friday 11.00–16.00
Saturday–Sunday 12.00–16.00
Mondays closed
Thursdays open until 20.00


Main page Estonian Roerich Society