Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

International Non-Governmental Organization | Special consultative status with UN ECOSOC
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PAGES  123Virtual tour

Picturesque and inspiring are the images of Tibetan lamas on Svetoslav Roerich’s paintings.

Portrait of Karma Dorje. “This is a close friend of our family who lived in a cave not far from our house in Kullu and often came to see us”8, the artist explained. The lama’s hand reserved gesture harmonizes with the rhythm of the purple cloak soft folds, emphasizing the impression of this man’s unusual image. Behind Karma Dorje’s back, mountain tops sparkle with snows, throwing lilac shadows on the steep slopes. His inspired face is turned to an invisible peak.

Soaring upwards mountains are the symbol of eternal spiritual search of man, infinity of achievement and cognition. “Searches of spirit remain the primary effort of the mankind, inborn aspiration for something beyond the limits of the obvious emptiness of everyday life. <…> – Svetoslav Roerich wrote. – This life is just the means for acquiring experience for the spirit, and when the earthly existence is coming to an end, the man passes to a different sphere and a different state”9.

“Tibetan lama playing a horn”. The lama’s face is wise and concentrated. His already not young but still sharp eyes are humid. Their shrewd look penetrates through the covers of the visible. The melody pouring out from the depths of the knowing heart submits to the rhythm of movement of fabulous Tibetan divinities behind the lama’s back. Art, as the result of overcoming oneself, victory over oneself, introduces harmony and beauty into our contradictory world.

S. Roerich. Tibetan Lamas. Undated
S. Roerich. Tibetan Lamas. Undated
Portrait of lama Tondoug. Calm and full of internal dignity is the image of the learned lama. His hands are holding sacred objects: vadjra and ritual drum damara. Falling from somewhere light plays with golden shades on the lama’s big yellow hat, lies with light spots on his elderly face, reflects in the wise look of his attentive eyes.

Amazingly beautiful are the bright colors of the canvas “Tibetan lamas”. There are three old lamas before us, their faces are cut with wrinkles, their hand are covered with a net of protruding veins. Having chosen the way of spiritual self-improvement, these people have cognized many mysteries, they have learnt to read the Great Book of Life. “Life – Nature, the artist said, contains a golden key to the deepest and the most secret of its crypts for those who search, for those who knock and dedicate themselves completely to this greatest of all adventures – the search of the inner, inmost “Ego”10.

S. Roerich. Portrait of Iraida Bogdanova. 1937
S. Roerich. Portrait of Iraida Bogdanova.
1937
Svetoslav Roerich’s female portraits conquer with the charm of mystery and beauty.

Subtly noticed by the artist elegant, in a way playfully-coquettish hand movement on the portrait of Iraida Bogdanova. This girl, together with her elder sister Ludmila took care of all the Roerichs’ household in Kullu. Soft folds of an Oriental shawl emphasize the girl’s fragile beauty. The bright colors create a festive feeling.

“Portrait of a woman in red”. A charming image of a mountain girl at the background of snowy rocks. Picturesque attire, a little mocking look of shrewd eyes, a light smile on her lips. A feeling of internal power, firmness – and feminine charm. Professor Lokesh Chandra said wonderful words about Svetoslav Roerich’s female images: “Women on his portraits can be compared with amphoras filled with sun light, their souls are abode for the heart longing for tenderness and craving for bliss”11.

S. Roerich. Portrait of a Girl. 1937
S. Roerich. Portrait of a Girl. 1937
Children look from the artists’ paintings with keen, non-childlike wise eyes.

Portrait of a girl, painted by the artist in 1937. Through the image childish charm, features of a future beauty are showing. The girl’s modest blue clothes are emphasized with the shining tinge of her blue-black hair. Reserved lean of the head, calm eyes – modesty and spiritual purity.

A small portrait of a boy in a turban is full of a special charm. The boy’s face is breathing with simplicity and tenderness. His head-dress is decorated with flowers. The dark shining eyes on the clever boyish face as if contain the ancient wisdom. The wisdom of India – a wonderful, mysterious country, with its subtlety and beauty, with its many-century traditions.

“<…> from the very early time, the Indian people has immersed its thoughts in the great space of the Universe. It understood many things that we are starting to understand only now”12, Svetoslav Roerich said. “The thought of India is synthetic: it embraces everything, it does not exclude anything, it accepts everything and contains everything”13.

Born in Russia, Russian both in terms of blood and spirit, Svetoslav Roerich loved India with all his heart and considered it his second Motherland. The second period in his creative work, the beginning of which refers to the 40-s, is characterized with “Immersion into India”. Having penetrated deep into its history, having understood and experienced specific features of its culture and the character of its people, the painter fixed on his paintings the Beauty of India.

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S. Roerich. Plowing. Undated