Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947)
The Grand Canyon, c. 1921 signed with artist's monogram (lower right) tempera on canvas, laid on board 42 x 72.4cm (16 9/16 x 28 1/2in).
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by Louis and Nettie Horch Thence by descent
In 1921 after spending three years living in Finland and England, Nikolai Roerich and his family arrived in the United States: the second 'foreign period' of the artist's life formally began. Invited by the Chicago Art Institute to lecture during the tour of 400 of his paintings in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco, Roerich had the opportunity to tour America and to find new inspirations and subjects for his paintings.
Together with Louis and Nettie Horch, Roerich's family spent August-October 1921 in New Mexico, Arizona and California. Located high in the mountains, Santa Fe was a remote, spiritual destination, and a place for writers, artists, musicians and various 'spirit seekers'. Roerich was immediately seduced by the intensity of the endless blue sky, crimson sunsets, fiery red mountains, and endless open landscapes. The fresh and exotic beauty of the ancient cliff dwellings in the Jemez Mountains north of Santa Fe, spectacular canyons, and the excavated dwellings of ancient civilizations fascinated Nikolai Roerich. 'The beauty of Switzerland, Norway, Central Asia, and the Caucasus... Africa, Spain, Italy it is all here and truly amazing,' he told a reporter. The artist captured the remote and timeless beauty of the American Southwest in a small series of works of which these two paintings are very fine examples.
In the inventory of Roerich paintings published in the Roerich Museum catalogue there are several entries that correspond to the body of works completed by the artist during his travels through New Mexico and Arizona, including Cliff Dwelling, Grand Canyon/ Arizona, Santa Fe/ New Mexico, Rio Grande, Santa Fe;. In the artist's 'List of Paintings, 1917-1924' there are several entries listing works completed during that trip: Arizona, Studies of Arizona and Red Mountains, Santa Fe. However, the compete inventory of the series with precise dimensions and inventory numbers is absent, making it impossible to confirm exact titles locations for each painting. Numerous sketches created by the artist in preparation for the larger paintings exist, and the illustrated example corresponds to the Grand Canyon painting offered in this sale. The magnificent red mountains of Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon with remains of the ancient civilization lying at their feet were an endless source of spiritual and creative inspiration for the artist.
Both paintings appear in the photograph illustrating the exhibition of the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York in 1917-1928 (Left wall, second and third works to the left of a large painting).