In a community of Iconographers, people share their experience, knowledge and good ideas! Iconography, like almost any worthwhile activity, benefits from cultivating a sense of community amongst practitioners, admirers, patrons, and students.
We all love and participate in the larger community of Christ’s Church – worldwide. Within this context, there is astonishing variety of practice and interpretation amongst Iconographers. Some of this is culturally determined, and some of the variety comes from different approaches to the Traditions of the Church.
Tolerance is the buzz word of today. Since Icon writers (painters) need to avoid egotism and reactionism in order to be authentic Iconographers, it naturally follows that the love of Christ extends to each person, regardless of their “style” of painting Icons.
Icon writers are humble servants who are able to keep their eyes on God’s purpose with sacred and Holy images, inviting creativity to partner with prayer to create images that inspire the viewer to a closer relationship with God.
Today, while there is a hint of interest in the renewal of sacred art, there is a need for education and training for sacred artists. I think it would be useful to create a place on the RESOURCE page on this blog, that lists credentialed degree programs of sacred art that will be helpful for future Iconographers. Please email me with suggestions or links that might be included. In this way, we can work together to insure the future and quality of sacred art development.
SUMMER OF 2020
This summer my goal for my own Icon writing is to approach the drawing of Icons from a more creative place. Reading Aidan Hart’s book “Beauty, Spirit, Matter, Icons in the Modern World”, I found this quote from Paul Evdokimov “ …the icon painters’ community needs to rediscover the creative power of the ancient iconographers and find an exit from the static immobility of the “copyists” art.
I still love copying from the great master Iconographers, and so I am using them as my models, just as the secular artist uses nature as her model. I am also studying from books like George Kordis’ “Icons as Communion” book the concept of rhythm, movement and dynamic flow in Byzantine Iconography. It’s not an easy task!! But I am getting help from Sister Petra Clare’s tutoring in her online course for Iconographers. She has created a closed Facebook Group where she posts exercise and examples, and we post our sketches and drawings for her comments. So, it’s an online community and we are learning together- it’s a lot of good creative fun! Her website is: eastxwest Online Studies, and she might have room for one or two more students.
The first is September 26-28 at St. Patrick’s Church, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the second is October 24-26 at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Bradenton, Florida. Please email me if you’d like me to save a space for you.
That’s all the news for June, 2019.
May God bless your Eyes, Mind, and hearts, and hands, that all that you say, do or think will be honorable and pleasing to Him!
This month of May, we celebrate Mary, Mother of God, with our prayers and special Icons. This month, Mary Jane Miller, a member of the American Association of Iconographers, has written an article expressing her views of Mary and how perceptions of Mary have changed through the centuries. Here at AAI we are open to informative articles about Iconography from our members, and will publish them from time to time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information if you are interested in writing or publishing an article about Icons that would benefit the Icon writing community.
Mary Icons: a New Contemporary Trinity by Mary Jane Miller
There are three classic prototypes of Mary Icons. Their collective messages point towards a new contemporary trinity of interconnections. As our society has changed, the concept of Mary and her message brings to light provocative and meaningful perspectives on loving. It has been through contemplating her image, and painting icons of her that I have come to realize a deeper mystical message. Her popular iconography may have the keys to how we are to care for creation and one another in the world.
Mary looks directly at the viewer, beckoning us towards poised stillness and constant prayer with palms extended outward in total surrender to what she receives. She contains the Creator of the Universe in her womb.
Mary Icons of the Theotokos
Mary is portrayed as the feminine energy which tenderly nurtures Jesus to become a teacher, rabbi, master and lord. She is the icon which reminds us to love one another, to love life, and to love creation.
Mary Icons of the Hodegitria
Mary becomes a mystical location, she is the challis that holds the “Way” in her lap. She offers us an example of one who can show us what is necessary to give ourselves to God and one another. We like Mary are called to release to the world what we most love and cherish.
The image of Mary has mutated many times throughout centuries of iconography. From the mother of creation Diva, to a Mother of God gazing into the unknown, to a weeping, anguished mother of Jesus she has changed as our society changes. The Renaissance painters in the 16th century changed her image into a more human mother, one of pain or of joy. Mary’s identity has given rise to many doctrinal wars, decrees and debates but her image is more than cult, idol, mystery or divine. She is a fountain of motherhood image, triggering great reflection and contemplation, and she has triggered a wonderful epiphany in me.
Mary Icons Defined Through History
Theologians of the Middle Ages deliberated in detail the Forever Virgin condition of Mary. They had to answer how it could be that Christ was born to someone as common as one of us? Since ‘ Christ is All man and All God ‘ , His mother would have to be, in some way, all divine. The Roman Catholic Church fashioned the idea of the Immaculate Conception. The concept of Mary being miraculously conceived was declared doctrine in 1854. It was a theological creation which became dogma at considerable expense to women. It made her more perfect and exhausted than any women’s capacity to achieve. Ironically, Mary was lifted to the highest place among men, yet somehow, though she was seemingly divine, she had no voice and no ability to act in any other way but constant surrender.
Nearly 100 years later another detail of her divinity needed clarification. Since Mary was immaculately conceived then where would her divine body go at her death? The Orthodox Church specifically teaches that Mary died a natural death, that her soul was received by Christ upon her death, and that her body was resurrected. On the third day after her ‘ repose ‘ her body was taken up into heaven. It was decided Mary did not die but rather “slept”. This statement became an Article of Faith in 1950. The Roman Catholic institution needed an example of undefiled sexuality, perfected womanhood with divine meekness and they found it in the Virgin Mary, from beginning to end.
We are now living in 2019. Where is Mary’s message and identity now? Has it changed or will the theologians of this age allow a change?
I have painted many images of Mary and I believe she continues to send messages to us today. The wisdom that women have learned through years of service and observation have undoubtedly helped shape society. I believe one critical message we have yet to understand is that humanity does not own anything, we have been lousy stewards of creation. In actuality we share our common energy and common space on the planet. Mary is the queen of teaching us to love. Over time, I have become increasingly aware of all that we have been given. How have we nurtured it? Will we one day be able to Give It Back to the world? Mary gave away the very thing she loved the most. It takes enormous selfless love to do such a thing.
I find it ironic that Christian mystics, mostly men, have spoken and expanded the spiritual understanding of God for nearly two thousand years. In doing so, they have controlled and shaped our society. Mary has not spoken, making our understanding of her elusive. Mary is a woman who, by her human act, gave birth to the most transcendent truth which is love, a love completed in offering. This is by far the very thing the world needs for its healing.
The next three icons illustrate a new teaching and trinity: to receive, nurture and release. The interconnection between these three states of being are precisely the clue we have to discover a new future. It is found in the value of being loved and loving another with no ownership. The idea is not only Christian, it teaches a new attitude towards creation. It is obvious to everyone how much humans are creating. It is obvious how much we love what we create. Will we come to a time when we have the wisdom to give away to the world what we have created? Nothing is truly ours, it never has been. It is all the potential of Love that has been given by God that makes any of this make sense.
Mary Jane Miller
Author Bio. Mary Jane Miller is a self-taught Byzantine style iconographer with over 28 years of experience. For the first 15 years she produced unique and unorthodox collections of sacred art and continues to have them exhibited in Museums and churches in both the United States and Mexico. Miller writes luxuriously, blending historical content, and personal insights to arrive at contemporary conclusions about faith. The author of 4 self-published books include Icon Painting Revealed, The Mary Collection, In light of Women and The Stations. Miller has been published online and in publications such as Divine Temple Russian Orthodox Journal, Faith and Forum Magazine, Liturgy Today and Profiles of Catholicism. She teaches 4 courses annually, 5 day immersion workshops throughout the US and Mexico. website: www.sanmiguelicons.com and http://sacrediconretreat.com/
Thank you so much, Mary Jane, for your thoughts and images of Mary. Next month, the blog will be on the topic of Light and Color in the Icon.
This month the focus is on the fifteenth century Iconographer, Dionysus.
Born sometime in the 1440’s near Borovsk, a small town southwest of Moscow, Dionysus’ earliest works are wall paintings at the Parfuntiev Monastery. Throughout his life, he was attracted to the beautiful and colorful Novgorodian style of Iconography. Dionysius’ colors were delicate and transparent and his elongated figures increased the elements of elegance and symbolism in his work.
Certainly he must have been aware of the work of Andrei Rublev (c.1360-1430), who painted in the old Iconographic tradition. However, Dionysus’ work reflected a new development in compositional style that increased the energy and vitality of the Icon.
One of the Last of the Old Master Iconographers
Dionysius’ style was called “Muscovite Mannerism” and it bridged the gap between Novgorodian Icon painting and the later Stroganov school. His best frescoes are in the Ferapontov Monastery, which include the beautiful “The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth”. Dionysus and his sons completed all the frescoes on the Virgin and scenes from her life at this monastery. In addition to egg tempera, he was a master of encaustic painting as well.
Dionysus ‘ color palette was strongly influenced by a group of early Renaissance artists from Italy who arrived in Moscow. This can be seen in the delicately blended and balanced soft pigment colors such as pink, lilac and turquoise, creating harmonious chords of color in his frescoes and Icons. The lyrical effect of his style of coloration affected much of the Iconography of the 16th century.
In 1482 Dionysus was called to Moscow to paint the Deesis on the Iconostasis in the Cathedral of the Dormition. After also painting murals in two of the chapels, he and his sons were asked to paint one hundred Icons for the Volokolamsky Monastery. With this, Dionysus devoted the remainder his life to icon panel painting, but today many of those Icons are either lost or un-restored.
Joseph-Volokolamsk was a wealthy patron who commissioned Dionysius to paint over ninety Icons. But the most comprehensive collection of his work is to be found at the Ferapontov Monastery. It is a series of frescoes depicting the life of Mary.
Dionysus Fresco, Mary
Christ Fresco, Dionysus
When writing(painting) Icons, it is always helpful to study from the great Iconographers of the past. Although their work speaks specifically to their time, these early Masters used principles of composition, color, and space in harmonious ways, and that kind of perspective has been largely missing in the art of our time. Copying these works helps educate Iconographers and helps bring valuable knowledge forward into today’s Icons.
This blog is created to share valuable ideas and information with Iconographers around the world. Below are some useful links for Iconographic materials. Until next month:
This month is a continuation of last month’s article on Hesychasm and Icons. There is an interesting book that was produced in fifteenth century Russia called, “Message to an Iconographer.” Message to an Iconographer is believed to have been written by St. Joseph of Volokolamsk. It is helpful in explaining the role and meaning of sacred art and Iconography. It is believed that this book was put together at the request of the famous Iconographer, Dionysius for the purpose of training future Iconographers.
Part of the reason for creating Message to an Iconographer was a concern that after Andrei Rublev’s Icons, there was a progressive lack of focus on the spiritual depth and meaning of the Icon in favor of beauty of artistic form. Message to an Iconographer provides an answer to the prevailing heresy of the time and is a defense of the Icon and its veneration. It is also a positive contribution that explains its spiritual content. Here is a quote from “Theology of the Icon, Volume II” by Leonid Ouspensky:
“How much more appropriate is it then, in this new time of grace, to venerate and bow down before the image of our Lord Jesus Christ painted on the Icon by human hands…and to adore His deified humanity taken up into heaven. This also holds true for His All Pure Mother. Likewise, to paint images of all the saints on icons, to venerate and bow before them is equally appropriate. By painting images of the saints on Icons, we do not venerate an object but, starting from this visible object, our mind and spirit ascend toward the love of God, object of our desire.” This statement echoes the defense of Icons by Gregory of Palamas. Taboric light and the divine energies form the basis of this treatise.
The Jesus Prayer
Here is another quote from the Message to an Iconographer: “When adoring your Lord and God…let your whole heart, spirit, and mind be lifted toward a contemplation of the holy, consubstantial and life giving Trinity, in purity of thought and heart…Let your bodily eyes ascend to the divine …venerate them spiritually in your soul and visibly with your body. Be completely turned toward the heavens.”
“The Message” is about a lifestyle of asceticism and inner prayer that is appropriate to an Iconographer.
“Wherever you may be, O beloved, on sea or on land, at home, walking, sitting or lying down-ceaselessly pray with a pure conscience, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’, and God will hear you. ” “Close your eyes to the visible and look at the future with your inner eye.” These are instructions to an Iconographer from The Message. They are intended to create a platform of prayer and faith from which to work on the Icon.”
I would suggest reading this chapter in its entirety to fully understand the context and intent of the author. It is from Chapter 13 Hesychasm and the flowering of Russian Art, in Theology of the Icon, Volume II, Leonid Ouspensky. There is a great deal of value in the rest of the book also, and I highly recommend it for Iconographers.
One last quote that is a gem:
“The painter must be acutely aware of the responsibility that rests upon him when creating an Icon. His work must be informed by the prototype it represents in order for its message to become a living, active force, shaping man’s disposition, his view of the world and of life. A true Iconographer must commune with the prototype he represents, not merely because he belongs to the body of the Church, but also on account of his own experience of sanctification. He must be a creative painter who perceives and discloses another’s holiness through his own spiritual experience. It is upon this experience of communing with the archetype that the operative power of an Iconographers work depends.”
May God bless your Icons, as you grow in wisdom and understanding in the practice of writing the Holy Image. Next month will be an article on the fifteenth century Iconographer Dionysus.
This article is extrapolated from the chapter, Hesychasm, the Flowering of Russian Art in Leonid Ouspensky’s Theology of the Icon, Volume II. I’ve chosen to share this particular material because of the understanding common to most Iconographers that Andrei Rublev is one of the greatest Iconographers and his work is fruit of the Hesychast period in Russia. Since this article points to some of the conditions present that contributed to Rublev’s ability to create Icons that spoke to his time we can discern important truths to apply to modern Icon writing. Hesychasm and Russian Icons are a unique combination that had a powerful effect on the art of its day.
Message To An Iconographer
Next month, part two of this article will give a synopsis of the “Message to an Iconographer”. This was a document widely circulated for and amongst Iconographers of that day. It attempts to set standards of Iconographic practice and is worth reading and understanding forts bearing on creating Icons today.
Thirteenth. Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century Russia
During the thirteenth century, an original artistic language specific to Russia began to appear. It reflected the spiritual life of the people, their holiness and their way of assimilating Christianity. Russian sacred arts from this time are inspired by a direct, living knowledge and experience of Revelation.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the spiritual leader, Sergius of Radonezh, consecrated his church to the Holy Trinity, “so that contemplation of the Holy Trinity might conquer the fear of this world’s detestable discord”. It was a time of feudal wars, Mongol raids, and general unrest, but Radonezh was confident of the power of the sacred image to influence his world.
Revival in Russia
Russia, through its own suffering of the Tartar invasion, experienced the Gospel intensely. There was widespread understanding that the power of Christ was participating actively in the lives of the Russian people, helping them in time of need. From this intensity of faith, Russia’s pictorial art reached its highest expression. Today we appreciate these examples of Iconography for their intense and joyful colors, expressive form and their freedom and spontaneity.
During this period, hesychasm and Orthodox Christianity were closely linked. St Sergius’ monastery became the spiritual center of Russia and the hesychast influence. The theology of hesychasm is reflected in the spiritual content and character of the Icons of that period. Zealous in the life of prayer and fasting, the famous iconographers, Daniel and Andrei Rublev were able to receive divine grace and perceive the divine, immaterial light that we see in the colors of their Icons.
Master Iconographer Dionysius was also guided by hesychasm and the teaching of inner prayer. These great Iconographers were not concerned with earthly things but always prayed to raise their spirits and thoughts toward the divine, immaterial light.
As Iconographers today, may we always seek to keep prayer as the central focus of our praxis, and learn from those who went before us.
Links to Books on Russian Icons
Here are a few links to websites that have books on Russian Icons:
The Month of February Calendar Saints from the book: “Masterpieces of Early Christian Art”, Richard Temple Gallery, London, UK
Writing Icons is a challenging task in many different ways. Learning from the past, incorporating the Traditions of the Church, and still being attentive to the spiritual ethos of our time in order to make Icons that are relevant to people today is a tall order. Icons are more than a spiritual painting
“The Icon is a kind of synthesis of the Spiritual truths and values of Eastern Christianity. It is much more than a religious painting, or a didactic aid. It is a sacramental medium, a meeting point between the Divine uncreated light and the human heart. Its visible, created beauty is aluminous epiphany, a ‘place’ of manifestation, where prayer gains access to the uncreated beauty of God’s grace and truth.” The Glenstal Book of Icons, Praying with the Glenstal Icons, Gregory Collins, OSB, the Liturgical Press
Theophanis the Cretan
As part of an ongoing series of looking at ancient Iconographers, this month the focus is on the Iconographer Theophanis , who painted many of the frescoes and Icons of the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita, Mt. Athos, Greece in the sixteenth Century.
A major source for this article is the book “The Cretan Painter Theophanis, the Wall Paintings of the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita” by Manolis Chatzidakis, Published by the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita, Mount Athos, 1986.
Theophanis was an Icon painter, trained in the Cretan tradition of wall and Icon painting. This style of Icon painting is considered to be a continuation of Palaeologan painting. However, the mature work of Theophanis encompassed both the Byzantine tradition and certain motifs from Venetian painting of the period. This contact with foreign Italian models of the 15th Century served to freshen the traditional compositions and add an emotional element without detracting from the essential dogma of the content.
“Theophanis lives within the eternal, changeless mystery of the liturgical life and experience of the Church and at the same time is a sensitive man of his own times. It is clear that he continues the Iconographic tradition that has passed through the splendor of the Palaeologan revival.” Archimandrite Vasileios, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita.
At times, the frescoes are painterly in execution, with less bold lines and rendered by brush strokes. In these works, the transitions of light are more gradual and subtle
In the handling of drapery, the accurate rendering of volume and movement through the interplay of light and dark tones. This creates a sense of rhythm that prevents the drawing from appearing mechanical.
In the Nativity of the Mother of God Theophanis renews the Iconographic type and style in his preference for Palaeologic models.
Icons help us remember the presence of the Trinity is always available to us. They serve as visual reminders that God’s light is perpetually shining on us.
Each Iconographer responds to the needs and dictates of his time, while simultaneously brining forward the Traditions of the Early Church. Theophanis is a wonderful example of an Iconographer who created a particular style of Iconography, authentic to his place and time.
May your Icons be blessed, there will be more articles next month.
January 6, 2019 is the day most of us will celebrate Epiphany this year. The twelfth day of Christmas, Epiphany commemorates the Star of Bethlehem leading the wise meant to the baby Jesus, as well as the Baptism of Jesus. The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, (Matthew 2: 1-2).
The word Epiphany today has entered our contemporary secular world with the meaning of “awakening, a moment of sudden revelation or insight”.
This concept of an abrupt change of thought, perception or awareness is what I would call a paradigm shift. A clear change from one perception of reality to another, more enlightened one. And this idea is one that can be said to characterize the difference between a secular view of reality and a Christian one. And to take this thought one step further, it can help to make clear the difference between an Icon and a religious painting.
Religious Painting vs Icon Writing
A religious painting is usually an attempt to depict reality as it exists here on earth, in nature, as perceived by our earthly and secular eyes. It does convey a spiritual theme, and quite beautifully sometimes, as in the case of many painters and sculptors, notably Michelangelo, and Raphael. While these works of art serve a purpose to bring the Gospel, or a sense of Christian spirituality to our eyes, they often don’t create that paradigm shift of moving distinctly from one reality to another.
Icons do this in a variety of ways, often using inverse perspective, composition and color to bring the viewer into the same time and space as the person or scene depicted. Icons have a discernible lineage and a historical set of precedents that ensure a continuity and language that transcends our modern sense of time. There is a sense of reverence, holiness and sacredness that Icons impart because they are conceived and executed with one purpose in mind- to make visible God ‘s world here on earth.
Self Expression vs Iconographic Tradition
The difference between self expression – in religious paintings- and adherence to Iconographic traditions that span centuries is a distinction every Iconographer must learn to make for themselves. By following the models of early Icons from before the Renaissance period, we can learn to paint and raw with understanding of the principles we are trying to integrate. In this way, we begin to read the theology of the Icon we are depicting. Through our further research on the topic, we make every effort to understand a deep level who this saint was, or how this Biblical scene can be understood on more than just a surface level. Through prayer, research, and meditation we are then able to approach the creation of an Icon. At this point the Iconographer becomes thoroughly engaged with the creation of an Icon and this prayerful action of painting is what helps the Icon be the bearer of that shift of perception for the viewer. The goal is to have an Icon that reaches out to the viewer and brings them in to a deeper communion with God. This is a different goal than a religious painting. Both are valuable, they are just not the same thing and do not serve the same purpose.
So this year, as we approach Epiphany, I pray God’s blessing of a major, life changing, holy revelation that brings joy and peace to your life forever.
Blessings and Happy New Year,
Christine Simoneau Hales
Contribute Articles to the American Association of Iconographers Blog
For 2019 I am accepting articles by Iconographers, and writers who have material or thoughts that will advance the training of future Iconographers. It could be insights about a particular theme, or materials, or experience in the field that will be helpful for others. Please email me with your articles for this blog, a word document is fine, and include some images that support the article.
December 2, we enter into that period of Advent that is so full of excitement and anticipation. How appropriate that it comes for us in the Americas at a time of profound seasonal change- the end of summer and the beginning of winter. Advent marks the end of all that we know belonging to the old Testament and the beginning of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies with the birth of Christ, our Redeemer.
Advent is a journey into the heart of promise and fulfillment with the Birth of Christ.
We share the hope of the Archangel Gabriel and Mary and witness the incredible faith journey that began the earthly life of Jesus Christ. Mary models for us the essence of spiritual preparedness, the willingness of a faith filled acceptance of God’s will manifesting in her life. Her surety and preparedness for this miracle is again a model for us to develop such a surety and willingness for all that God has for us.
Byzantine Iconography and Advent
And there is a similarity between Byzantine Iconography and Advent. Canon Edward West, in his article on Byzantine Religious Art said that an Icon is “notably the reflection of something which exists, but in its own way, it conveys something which actually exists and conveys it really….Byzantine religious art is concerned with conveying truth, witnessing to the truth, and indeed, making it possible for the sensitive and aware Christian to have some part in that truth…”. The birth of Christ 2000 years ago allows us to be in the present tense with God today, to experience His love, protection and guidance. One could also say that Icons share in that ability to bring us into God’s presence, as symbols of the incarnation.
Canon West, who was a noted Iconographer in addition to serving at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City for over forty years, goes on to say that what makes an Icon important is, “that it is a meeting point of this continuum from the past with the vertical thrust of the Spirit of God at the right moment- in terms which the individual Christian can understand. It is essential that we remember this attitude about Tradition. The Byzantines were concerned in Witnessing to the Truth.”
Icons in 2019
May we all be blessed with Mary’s patience, devotion, and willingness to carry out God’s plan in the coming year. May our Icons be bearers of God’s Grace and Presence as we move towards a world where Holy Scripture is made visual through the sacred imagery of Icons and made available to all those who seek Him.
Revered amongst Iconographers as the most gifted Iconographer of all time, Andrei Rublev stands out amongst Iconographers for his ability to convey a subtle sense of spirituality with a highly expert ability to compose and paint Icons that address the issues of his time.
Born in medieval times, sometime in the 1360’s, not much is known about his life. He is generally thought to have lived at the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra near Moscow. Rublev’s spiritual teacher, Saint Sergius of Radoneh, was the head of this Lavra until his death in 1392.
In 1405, Rublev decorated the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow with frescoes and Icons along with Theophanes the Greek, who was Rublev’s teacher.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
The Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir and Holy Trinity Cathedral are thought to have been decorated by Rublev and Daniil Cherni at about 1425.
Rublev’s great masterpiece, The Icon of the Holy Trinity, is the only work definitely attributed to him. It was only discovered in the early 1900’s when an art restorer in Russia began to clean away the soot and grime that had blackened the surface for centuries.
Rublev’s art combined asceticism with the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism. His Icons are seen today as ideals of Eastern Orthodox Iconography.
If you’d like to read more about the Byzantine approach to painting Icons with egg tempera, this is covered in the book, Eyes of Fire, in the Appendix.
In 1966 a now classic film was made by the Russian film maker, Andrei Tarkovsky, called “Andrei Rublev”. It’s a dark Russian drama that conveys a sense of the medieval times of Rublev and is in black and white.
Rublev died in 1430, clothed as a Russian Monk and canonized by the Orthodox Church in 1988.
When we open our eyes to see the sacred geometry inherent not only in nature, but also in Iconographic composition we enter into the world of sacred symbolic language. The Byzantine culture understood that it is essential to understand and use abstract symbolic representation. The primary reason is that we are depicting God’s universe, that heavenly realm that operates differently from our humanistic, materialistic world. We want to convey this God centered point of view in Icons and the best way to do that is to understand and implement sacred geometry within our compositions.
Shapes and Patterns
Identifying shapes and patterns helps us understand principles of symmetry, balance, and motion within the Icon. When we cooperate with and work in agreement with universal principles handed down through the centuries, we can participate in creating a universal visual language that can speak the truth of God, the Bible, and the Gospels, bringing our everyday lives into this sense of harmony and cooperation.
Simple Geometric Constructs
A simple geometric composition for single figure Icons is the triangle which is set upon a plinth. By measuring the height and width of the Icon composition, finding the vertical and horizontal axis, and drawing the diagonals from each corner of the base to the central axis point at the top of the composition, one can create an Icon using sacred geometry.
One of the most famous Icons using sacred geometry is the Rublev Holy Trinity Icon. With this drawing, you can see the figures are arranged in relationship to the circle and contained within the square. The circle is the symbol of unity, and God, in that it has no beginning and no end, but is energy in eternal motion. Rublev had been asked by Saint Sergius of Radoneh to create an Icon of unity and harmony which the community could pray with. This now famous Icon was lost to the world until the early 1900’s when a resurgence of interest in Russian Icons caused an art restorer to clean the centuries of black soot and dirt from the icon, revealing a true masterpiece.
May 9-12, 2019 Sacred Geometry retreat
Sacred Geometry is a foundational concept for Iconographers who wish to paint in the Byzantine Tradition. The next Sacred Geometry Retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, will be May 9-12, 2019.
New Icon Book
“Eyes of Fire, How Icons Saved my Life as an Artist” by Christine Simoneau Hales is an in-depth study on the evolution of religious arts and iconography, this book is about spiritual strength, timeless artistry , and groundbreaking personal transformation achieved through experiencing Icons. The power of religious images is well documented in this book, as well as their influence on contemporary art. There is an appendix containing valuable information to creating sacred art for the twenty-first century.
This book will be available on Amazon and a Kindle version will be available for a short period of time at no cost during the book launch in early October . Email to receive a link for the free Kindle book (available during the book launch in early October only).