Nicholas Roerich - The Forefathers of Man
In 1906 Nicholas Roerich began work on an unusual series of paintings about human prehistory: The Stone Age (1910), Coastal Dwellers. Morning (1906), and The Forefathers of Man (1911, whereabouts unknown; later copy in the Russian Museum). This latter painting is typical of the series. It depicts a young Slav playing on a pipe, and bears, enchanted by the magical sounds, are peacefully settled on the green hills around him. In this series Roerich gave symbolic expression to his philosophical outlook, which was linked to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He contrasts contemporary society with a past idyll, where people were motivated by goodness and love, and lived in harmony with nature. Roerich believed that the key to the transformation of reality lay in man’s moral perfection, and that radiant, purifying art could serve this goal.