“Heavenly battle”, Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Heavenly battle – Nicholas Roerich. 1912. Tempera on cardboard. Sixty six x ninety five cm

   On this canvas the quiet, calm and pastoral appearance of the earth is contrasted with a stormy sky covered with voluminous clouds. If on earth everything flows smoothly and peacefully, then in heaven there is a real battle. The clouds swirl, twist, fight each other, trying to oust one another from the sky. A strong wind clearly blows there, which is noticeable in pronounced, almost horizontal stripes.

   But even a strong wind can not cope with powerful clubs of clouds. They covered the whole sky completely, only at the very horizon a thin strip of sky is visible, but it is not entirely clear – clouds are also gathering on it. They are still small, weak, but soon they will also cover the entire horizon above the earth.

   And on earth at this time, complete silence. A deserted village, consisting of small houses under thatched roofs, peacefully dozing over the quiet waters of a light blue lake. In the distance you can see the emerald hills and distant blue mountains, also quiet and serene. At the time of writing the painting, Roerich was fond of antiquity, so it becomes clear the image of unusual, clearly out-of-date huts on stilts. This is the distant, very distant past of mankind, when the gods decided everything around, and the forces of nature that were simple and understandable to us now caused panic horror.

   The village was depopulated from a primitive fear of the raging elements. It is easy to imagine how in each of these tiny huts our ancestors tremble with fear, huddled in dark corners. They are clearly afraid of what is happening in heaven, this is a riot of elements, which they take for the wrath of their gods.

   The whole picture is designed in bright enough, but not intense colors. There are many shades of blue, blue, violet, green and yellow, but all of them are harmoniously combined without conflict with each other. The canvas looks solid, organic through the use of halftones and mixing colors. With a static image of the earth, the sky covered with clouds looks extremely dynamic. It seems that you can feel the wind blowing from the picture and the smell of moisture, if you get close enough to it.

   Given the proximity of the First World War and the general thunderstorm situation prevailing in Europe at that time, one can also find in the picture signs of another impending catastrophe. Then a stormy sky with swirling clouds may seem like a symbol of an approaching war, which is about to swallow an innocent peaceful village on the lake."

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