Tuesday 26 March 2013

The Roerichs of Bangalore

Art and architecture or rather any fine art is bound to catch the attention of people and there are only a few who can resist from admiring works of art, be they literature, paintings, sculpture or even a building.
Bangalore has several buildings which in themselves are works of art and they also double up as storehouses of art. One such building is the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat.
The Parishat , which is better known as CKP in art circles, is one of the nest known institutions of its kind in the world. It has a history of its own and it is a rare repository of art.
Situated in the centre of Bangalore, the CKP has always been a favourite haunt of an art lover. A must see tourist spot in Bangalore, the institution has some outstanding galleries related to different forms of art.
One of the CKP’s matchless collections is  the 117 paintings of famed Russian artist Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetsolav Roerich.
The Roerichs were related to the Tzar of Russia and Svetsolav made Bangalore his home and stayed at his sprawling estate in Tataguni on Kanakapura Road near Bangalore along with his famous actress wife Devika Rani.
Both Nicholas and Svetsolav were excellent painters and Nicholas’  work ran parallel with the School of Bengal revivalism. It was Abanindranath Tagore who commenced this school which was distinctly nostalgic and romantic to start with. It held its forte in India for more than three decades as the Bengal School of Painting or Renaissance School( Revivalist School) as it was both. Despite its country-wide influence in the early years, its importance declined and by the 1940s it was almost dead.
The Bengal style synthesized the far eastern tradition of wash painting with traditions of Ajanta and Mughal painting. The medium used in these paintings is tempera. This gives all the paintings a chalky or pastel like quality. This is what Nicholas has used in his work.

The triangular hill is very prominent in his paintings and it is centrally located. It was his Shambala or the concept Himalaya is the link between the Earth and heaven.  
Dr. Svetoslav Roerich donated 117 paintings to the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in 1990 and among them are many of his father.
The CKP decided to put paintings of both Prof. Nicholas Roerich and Svetoslav on permanent display in one of its galleries. The gallery holds 42 Himalayan paintings of Nicholas.
Svetoslav is represented with his landscapes, portraits and abstract works. Some of his miniatures which are now called Indian miniatures,  the canons of Tibetan Icon, ancient Russian painting, Muslim ornamentation and many more are all harmonized in his work.
Check put the paintings in which he has pictured the Kulu valley of Himachal and some works with biblical themes. His portraits of Devika Rani and Lakshmi are superb.  
If Nicholas was a mystic, Svetoslav was a romantic. If the father brought alive the Himalays, to the son goes the credit of romanticising the Kulu Valley.
What very few people know is that Svetoslav is the only artist whose three paintings adorn the central hall of Parliament in Delhi. The three paintings are of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Radhakrishnan.
Svetoslav was in love with Devika and this comes across in all his paintings of her. Many of the colours of Devika portraits are Svetoslav’s own. Many paintings have Devika with a flower in her hand.
Svetoslav prepared the colours for the paintings himself and many of them were based on his knowledge of Himalayana herbs and plants. He took up with enthusiasm the tradition of Indian miniatures to who different moods. He was particularly inspired by the Ragamaala style of paintings.
The Parishat’s permanent collection has Roerichs’ paintings. Two exclusive gallery floors have been set up in their memory.
The CKP is centrally located in Seshadripuram in Bangalore and buses and autos are easily accessible. It is  open to the public on all days between 10 am and 5 pm. However, the Parishat's personal collections, including the Roerich and Kejriwal Galleries are closed daily between 2 pm and 3 pm.

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