NATIONAL ART TREASURE - NON-EXPORTABLE ITEM (Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale at the back of the catalogue)
Oil and tempera on canvas
16 1/8 x 20 1/4 in. (40.9 x 51.5 cm.)
Artist's monogram lower left and inscribed in Cyrillic 'A.B. ROUMANOV N. ROERICH 1920' on reverse
Formerly in the collection of Arkady Roumanoff (1878-1960). Arkady Roumanoff was a journalist, writer and critic. He was a friend of Roerich, and a well-known patron of the arts. He is known to have owned more than twenty paintings and drawings by Roerich. Two paintings by Roerich from Roumanoff's Family Collection, were sold at Sotheby's, London, 10 June 2009, lots 350 and 351.
'Nicholas K. Roerich, the renowned Russian humanist and artist strode the world art scene for over five decades like a colossus. He was a towering personality, saintly in appearance and liberal in outlook, influencing every facet of human life he touched. And his touch extended from arts to archaeology, from history to humanistic studies and to the cause of world peace.' (M. S. Nanjunda Rao, Nicholas Roerich, Lalit Kala Contemporary Series, New Delhi, 1992, unpaginated)
The current painting titled Hut was painted by Roerich in 1920 when he was in London. The work originally belonged to his friend Arkady Roumanoff, who had left Russia after the revolution, and moved to London. Number forty in a handwritten list of Roerich's paintings for the year 1920 (now in the archives of the Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York) is a work titled Hut which confirms that the painting was owned by Roumanoff. Since no photographic archive accompanies the list, it has been assumed by scholars that the current painting, inscribed on the reverse with the name of the owner 'A B Roumanoff' corresponds to this listing.
In an email correspondence with the current owner, the Russian scholar Olga Glebova notes that the colour scheme of the current work is quite different from both his Russian and Indian periods of work and that the 'anxious and turbulent period after leaving Russia is reflected in his manner of painting, and in his choice of colours.' Even his choice of subject manner is poignant, for the hut depicted on 'hen's legs' is one of the most ancient styles of buildings in Russia, which were originally used as a place of burial for pre-Christian communities. In these animistic communities, the hut was believed to be a place where one could crossover to the world of the dead, a parallel realm to the earthly one. Orthodox Russians remembered the association of this style of architecture with pagan burial, and were suspicious of people who lived in this type of building believing them to be witches or wizards. The subject would have naturally appealed to Roerich's fascination with both the mystical and the Nordic epics, and is reminiscent of his earlier work The Hut of the Dead, painted in 1909.
Another potential source of inspiration for the current image is the story of Baba Yaga from Slavic folklore. According to Slavic tales, Baba Yaga was a supernatural being, one of a trio of sisters, who flew around in a mortar, holding a pestle. She lived in a hut described as standing on chicken legs, and as a sorceress she had the power to both grant gifts as well as perform villainous acts. In her stories, she is frequently associated with birds, particularly the raven. This association may explain the deliberate contours of the clouds around the hut, which are shaped to take the form of a bird. Such symbolic use of cloud formations to reveal deeper meanings is seen in other Roerich paintings, including The Cloud Archer, 1937.
An exhibition catalogue from the early 1920s states 'the art of Roerich stems from the solitary sub-Artic wastes where mind and eye have been forced to seek inspiration from within, not from without. Despite its colouristic appeal, there is a note of reserve, of heroic detachment in the later works of Nicolas Roerich. These burnished lakes and rock ribbed mountains and valleys suggest moon landscapes in which one wanders ceaselessly without respite, for the kingdom of the soul is ever a sparsely populated region. Like his roving Vikings, his priests, anchorites and sorcerers Nicolas Roerich is himself a seeker after hidden treasures, an idealist to whom reality is but a suggestion of what lies beyond.' (Christian Brinton, The Nicolas Roerich Exhibition, 1920 - 1921 - 1922, New York, 1922, unpaginated)
* Antiquity or Art Treasure – Non-exportable Item. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale.
About The Artist:
NICHOLAS ROERICH (1874 - 1947)