He found in Karelia an appropriate place to face the raw forces of nature and develop a new artistic style. Man is very small, drowned into a grandiose setting, yet he dominates the scene by the strength of his mind.
Roerich finds an inspiration in the legend of St Simeon Stylites, the ascetic who prayed for almost forty years without leaving his pillar. On November 26 in London, Bonhams sells The Praying Stylite, tempera and oil on canvas 154 x 129 cm painted in 1918, lot 30, a masterpiece of the Karelian period of the artist.
The holy man almost disappears within expressive mountains with highly saturated colors. He is alone. He prays by standing for so long that his feet are petrified. His silhouette is withered and his beard reaches the knees.
Roerich is a painter of mysticism, not only of Christian mysticism. After Karelia, he traveled extensively, particularly in Asia. His Lao Tze and his Confucius painted in tempera on canvas around 1924 have a similar theme as the Karelian stylite but with lighter colors. These paintings were sold for $ 2.2M and $ 1.25M including premium by Sotheby's on April 26, 2006.