Hello Fellow Iconographers:
Have you ever thought about what Christian History looks like in the visual image? I know that I tend to keep to a narrow view of the history of the development of icons and see the history of the Christian church in that perspective. So, it was with great interest that I read this month’s Christian History Magazine which focuses on portraying Christian History in Images.
While the magazine does include icons, it also includes sculptures, paintings, and photographs of manuscripts. The issue will also use, for example, a twentieth century artwork to illustrate a saint or holy event that took place in the fourth century. This I found confusing, at first. On second consideration, however, I could understand that this viewpoint helped me to question and think about icons and their relationship to the development of Christian Art through the centuries.
Again, most of the images are not icons, but they do provide interesting examples of Christian history that could be translated into icons, thus providing a fresh source for possible new icons for iconographers today. And illustrating the history of Christianity in icons is even more important today than it was centuries ago.
Bill and Michelle Curtis reflect on the writings of the founder of the magazine, A. Kenneth Curtis by sharing that, “church history teaches us to expect God to work over centuries, rather than to think that we see God’s whole plan in an individual lifetime. He noted how church history confirms what Scripture makes clear: the last shall be first; God works through our weakness; and in the people and eras that seem vulnerable, humble, or weak, God is often at work in ways we don’t expect.”
“An awareness of Christian history is one of the most neglected but necessary ingredients in the spiritual diet of Christians today…The Scriptures continually call us to remember God’s work in ages past and this must now include also include the working of our Lord through the centuries since the Scriptures were completed.” Ken Curtis
Beyond the portrayal of a holy individual, isn’t this the idea we seek to convey in iconography? The working of God in the affairs of humankind? Some of the older Russian icons do depict battle scenes with warriors carrying high an icon into battle, confident that God will bring the victory.
This issue of Christian History is a visual tour through two millennia of church history. Starting with the early church, the chapters include the early Middle Ages, the high and late Middle Ages, and the Reformation up until the present time. There is also a beautiful color fold out of the Christian story through the ages.
One final quote from Ken Curtis: “ I believed then, and believe now, that it is difficult to get where Jesus wants us to go without knowing where he has already led us.” To purchase this magazine click here.
And modern icons can be an important source of reflection and understanding for all Christians in the centuries to come when we take the time to study the principles of iconography and apply them to appropriate subject matter for today’s Christians.
Christine Simoneau Hales, editor, founder, American Association of Iconographers
USEFUL LINKS FOR ICONOGRAPHERS:
EARTH PIGMENTS has a series of articles about egg tempera, mica powders, and more. Their pigments tend to be very affordable.
NATURAL PIGMENTS also has an extensive online library of articles on how to use materials and products related to egg tempera and more. They tend to have everything iconographers need.
ICON BOARDS BLATURI is an excellent source for gessoed icon boards- do leave plenty of time for delivery. They are reachable on Facebook.
That’s all for this month, enjoy the last of the summer, and may God bless the inspiration of your minds and the work of your hands,
Christine Simoneau Hales