Overseas Guests (1901)

“Midnight visitors are floating. The shelving shore of the Gulf of Finland stretches along like a light band. The water has engorged the azure of the clear vernal sky and the wind ripples on it, whisking opaque purplish stripes and circles. Flock of seagulls down at the waves, they swayed lightly, and only under the very front of the keel of the boat flashed their wings. Something unfamiliar and unprecedented has alarmed their peaceful life. A new jet is pushing through still water, it is running into age-old Slavic life, will pass through forests and swamps, will roll through a wide field, rising Slavic race who will see rare and unfamiliar guests and who will marvel at their strictly combating, outlandish custom.” (N.Roerich)

The painting is dedicated to Rurik's arrival to Rus. Not only the boats and the Vikings are historical, but so is the landscape. Wavy lines of green hills with rounded boulders here and there trace the movement of glaciers that had smoothed and softened the topography of the northern landscape. At the top of the hill there are three barrows, burials of chieftains, on the other hill - a Slavic town fortified with fence and towers. The artist takes us into the past and makes us witness the events from pagan Russia. In order to understand the beauty of this Russia one should, he wrote, ‘grasp the spirit of the epoch, appreciate it – glorious, native, full of wild space and will.

National Arts Museum, Belarus

1901, Odessa Art Museum, Ukraine
1902, Vasnetsov Museum of Fine Arts, Kirov
Sketch, before 1901. Bashkir State Museum of Fine Arts n.a. M.V.Nesterov