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Gene Shapiro Auctions to Offer an Important Private Collection of Early Paintings by Nicolai Roerich

On November 16th, 2013, Gene Shapiro Auctions, a Manhattan-based auction house in business since 2007, will hold its annual autumn sale of Fine and Decorative Art. The auction house sells a variety of artworks by international artists, and is one of the few auction houses in the world to specialize in the sale of Russian artworks. The November auction will include over 600 lots of paintings, icons, rare books, Fabergé, silver, and other examples of Russian fine and decorative arts.

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Nicolai Roerich, The Offerings, 1910
Nicolai Roerich, The Offerings, 1910
PRLog (Press Release) - Nov. 4, 2013 - NEW YORK -- Amongst these lots is a very rare collection of artworks by the artist, mystic, and philosopher Nicolai Roerich (1874-1947), of which several are widely exhibited and extensively reproduced paintings by the legendary artist, that have been hidden from public view since the 1930s.

  The auction will include 8 individual artworks by Roerich, an artist for whom several museums across the world are dedicated, including in New York and several in Russia, in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  In the last 15-20 years, due to the confluence of a revived Russian economy, a burgeoning Russian art market, and a renewed interest in spiritualism and theosophy by the Russian elite, Roerich has become a favored artist of the Russian art market.  His paintings, often small in size, are full of symbolism and deeper meanings best understood in the context of Eastern religions.

  While the amount of Roerichs being offered in one auction is by itself impressive, it is the quality and importance of the individual pieces which differentiates them from other Roerichs which have been offered at auction in the last several years.  Four of the works, “The Offerings,” “Lake Hympola,” “Study of Arizona,” and “Mont Blanc,” are from a private American Collection and have never before been offered at auction.  All of these works were in the collection of the Roerich Museum in New York from 1929-35.  After the Roerich Museum closed in 1935, the majority of the paintings in the museum became part of the collection of Louis and Nettie Horch, who financed Roerich’s Asian expedition from 1925-1929. They stayed in Horch’s collection until 1957, at which point they were bought by Dr. Carlos Giro in Manhattan, where they would remain until 2003 and gifted to an anonymous US collector.  Two other early Roerich costume designs for Tsar Saltan, also from the Horch collection and previously in the Roerich Museum in New York, are also included amongst the 8 Roerichs in the sale.

  The most important of the works to be offered at Gene Shapiro is Roerich’s “Offerings” from 1910.  A seminal work, Roerich painted the work as a finished painting based on his design for Aleksei Mikhailovich Remizov’s   “Tragedy of Judas Iscariot,” which was to be performed in St. Petersburg’s Komissarzhevskaya Theatre.   The painting depicts the palace of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on a ethereal and warm yellow background, with soldiers in the foreground carrying “gifts” to the Prefect. As a biblical subject, “Offerings” dealt with themes that intrigued Roerich through the rest of his career, primarily philosophical and religious in nature.  We know that Roerich considered “Offerings” to be important and representative of his work, because he had it exhibited very widely early on, in addition to the fact that he had gifted it to his wife and fellow theosophist, Elena Roerich.  Up.  In 1914, the painting was exhibited along with 30 of his other works at the International Baltic Exhibition in Malmo, Sweden .  Before the painting came to America as part of the Roerich Museum Collection in New York in the 1920s, it was additionally exhibited in Stockholm, Oslo, Helskinki, and London.  Afterwards, “Offerings” was brought by Roerich to America, where it toured the USA from New York to San Francisco and back, in a traveling exhibition of Roerich’s work organized by Christian Brinton.  The painting was illustrated in most of the early monographs on Roerich, and was even featured and illustrated in a New York Times article of December 19, 1920 entitled “The World of Art,” possibly the first Roerich painting to appear in the American press.

  The other three Roerich paintings from the same collection as the “Offerings,” while smaller, are also significant works by Roerich to appear on the international art market, and not only because they are fresh to the market.  “Hympola” is an early and colorful work by Roerich from 1917 of a Lake in Finland, bearing his trademark deep blue and purple colors. “Study of Arizona” dates from Roerich’s early time in the U.S., and bears witness to Roerich’s fascination with places associated with a deep spirituality.  Sketches for this paintings are still in the Roerich Museum .  One can see in this work a preview of his later Tibetan and Himalayan mountains imbued with spiritual Meaning.  Mont Blanc is likewise a rare subject for Roerich.

  Two other Roerichs round out the Roerich paintings being offered at Shapiro’s auction on the 16th of November.  One is an early and large painting of Tulola Island in 1918, last sold at Christie's in 2008, , and the other is a work also previously sold at Christie’s but only now identified by Gvido Trepsa, Head Researcher at the Roerich Museum, as from a series of works depicting the Tangla Mountain Range in the Himalayas, one of Roerich’s favorite mountain ranges.    Finally, there is one lot being offered, that is from the same collection as the “Offerings”, of important Roerich literature, objects, and photographs from his expeditions to the Himalayas, including Tibetan tangka paintings gifted to Roerich, along with rare tomes such as the monograph published on Roerich in 1916 by the “Free Art” publishers, of which only 500 were printed.

  The auction to be held in New York at Gene Shapiro’s is a large one, comprising over 600 lots.  There is a very diverse group of property that makes up these lots, appealing to many different collectors, and numerous highlights.  Early pieces include three small paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky, a portrait of the Princess Isabella Adamovna Gagarina from the 1850s by Sergei  Zarianko, which was recently illustrated in a catalogue published by the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, and an early depiction of the historical Cruiser Minin by Leonid Blinov.   A beautiful, large, and expansive view of Lake Sevan by the Armenian painter Georgy Bashinzhagyan is also on offer.  In addition, a lovely landscape by Isaak Levitan is being sold entitled “View Near Yalta.”  This painting was exhibited at the Sixth Exhibition of the Moscow Society of Art Lovers in 1886-87, and later at the Society of St. Eugene Exhibition of Russian Artists in St. Petersburg in 1913.

  Works by influential 20th Century Russian artists populate the November 16th auction, such as paintings by the artists David Burliuk, Boris Grigoriev, Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky, Robert Falk, Konstantin Gorbatov, Alexandre Altmann, Serge Soudeikine, Boris Anisfeld, and other artists of similar renown.  In addition, Shapiro’s auction in New York remains one of the best sources in the world of Russian contemporary artists, specifically the non-conformist and “underground” artists of the late 20th Century whose works are highly sought-after today.  Amongst other artists of this type, the auction includes numerous works by artists such as Gleb Bogomolov, Eric Bulatov, Mikhail Chemiakin, Ilya Kabakov, Komar & Melamid, Victor Pivovarov, Dmitry Plavinsky, Ernst Neizvestny, Oleg Tselkov, and others.

  It should be noted, that Gene Shapiro Auctions’ November sale is entitled “Russian, European, and International Art.”  In addition to the Russian works being offered, there are artworks by famous artists of other nationalities, including 4 beautiful gouache and watercolor paintings by the famous Chinese contemporary artist Fang Xiang (B 1967).  Born in the Guangdong province of China, Fang Xiang is an artist whose paintings are in numerous Chinese museums, including the Shanghai Art Museum and the Guangdong Art Museum. He is represented in the auction with paintings depicting the lyrical interiors and garden views for which he is known. Likewise, there are numerous old master European paintings in the sale, a view upon Windsor Great Park by the British Watercolorist Paul Sandby dating circa 1782, an early flirtatious genre scene by the Spanish artist Juan Pablo Salinas y Teruel, and even a large and powerful abstract composition by the Belgian modernist Joseph Lacasse.

  A full online catalog with high-resolution photographs of each item to be offered in the auction can be seen at www.geneshapiro.com.  Bidders can likewise register for bidding at the website, and can participate in the auction live, by telephone, by absentee bid, and using the internet  on third-party sites such as liveauctioneers.com.  All items in the auction can be previewed in person when the exhibition opens on November 9th and extending until the auction date.  Both the auction and exhibition will be held at Gene Shapiro Auctions’ Manhattan headquarters at 506 East 74th Street, New York, NY  10021.  The auction house can also be reached by telephone at +1 (212) 717-7500, or by email at info@geneshapiro.com.


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