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Nicholas Roerich Museum-UES-Manhattan-Upper East Side-NYCNicholas Roerich Museum. Image via Wikcommons by The Fixers

Nestled right next to Riverside Park on West 107th is a tiny, lesser-known museum dedicated to a talented and prolific Russian artist, Nicholas Roerich. So prolific was Roerich that technically he was also an archeologist, costume & set designer, writer, philosopher and public figure…did you get all that?

The Nicholas Roerich Museum is like a mini-Frick Collection but with a few exceptions–the museum is free, and all the artwork and artifacts were painted and discovered by Nicholas Roerich himself. Housed in this three-story Upper West Side town house are over 200 works of art ranging from paintings of the Himalayas to scenes from historical references to sketches from his early days designing sets for Russian ballets like The Rite of Spring composed by Igor Stravinsky. 

Nicholas Roerich Museum-Upper West Side-Interior1-NYC

Nicholas Roerich Museum Interior, roerich.org

But before you pop by for a quick look, here’s a little more about the fascinating life of Roerich, to give you a greater appreciation for who he was. He was born into a Russian upper-middle class family, and was extremely ambitious He pursued archeology, built his own arboretum and knew he wanted to be an artist all before the age of sixteen.

Nicholas Roerich Museum Interior, roerich.org

He earned three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to preserving art, artifacts and architecture during times of war, leading to his creation of the Roerich Pact, an inter-American treaty that gave legal recognition to the defense of cultural objects over military defense (signed into law by the United States and most members of the Pan-American Union). He was also influential in Europe, introducing the continent to Russian art, music and dance.

So meander over to the Upper West Side this weekend and take a look! Visit roerich.org for more information. See more obscure museums in NYC in our  piece on the “Top 10 Off-the-Radar Museums

2 Comments

  1. And there’s more. The original location of this museum was in the Master Apartments, still standing at 310-312 Riverside Drive and West 103rd Street. Roerich had many devoted followers, among them Louis and Nettie Horch, who put up this building – named for Roerich’s “Master Institute of United Arts” – as a combination apartment house, library, and conference center, including what the New Yorker called “a copy of a Tibetan monastery library” – plus the museum with more than 1000 of Roerich’s works. The building was built 1928-29 to designs by Harvey Wiley Corbett, of Helmle Corbett & Harrison – shortly before the firm went to work designing Rockefeller Center – in part because Corbett was himself a member of the Roerich Society. According to the New Yorker: “like every other zealous member [Corbett is] devoted to Unity and to various other ‘ideals of brotherhood and culture through art and science’ as expressed in the paintings and teachings of Nicholas Roerich.” The Master Apartments is a NYC landmark, so you can read the whole story in the designation report: http://neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/db/bb_files/1989MasterBuilding.pdf

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