The Painting of Byzantine Icons is very much alive today all over the world, from Russia to the
Americas, from Sweden to Australia.
Icons can be just as beautiful as their ancient counterparts. The icon of Christ the Savior (by
, England), shown to the left, and the icon of the Mother of
God of the Sign (by Olga Kirichenko
shown further down
, are two prime examples. A look at the
Selection of (Contemporary) Icons
will further convince you.
About the Index-Imagebase
The Iconographers' Index-Imagebase
consists of 2 parts,
an Index and an Imagebase "All-on-One" page.
Part 1 - Index
With a few
exceptions, the Index only lists iconographers (icon painters) who have a web presence. It lists
them either by their individual last name or by the name of their studio or association. Icon
painters make up abouty 94% of the Index, representatives 2% (note
and distributors 4% (note 3)
. Index entries can be sorted by 5
criteria indicated in the column headings.
Some of the icon
painters who are part of an association of some kind and don't have a web presence and thus aren't
identifiable, are mentioned in a separate table listing Associations
It should be pointed out that not all icons shown in the
Index-Imagebase have been 'Hand-painted in the Traditional Eastern Orthodox style'
, i.e. the
iconographer may not have fully adhered to the Canon of the Orthodox Church. Experienced eyes can
readily discern this. Less experienced eyes may discover it over time. Click the link that follows
Explanation of 'Byzantine' and 'Byzantine Icon'
to understand the importance of 'Hand-painted
in the Traditional Eastern Orthodox style'. More about this in the section "Byzantine Icons
" further down on this page.
Part 2 - Imagebase
an iconographer's name in the Index
will take you to where he (she) is
shown in the Imagebase
. They are arranged alphabetically by icon
painter last name (or studio name), by default, i.e. when loading or re-loading the page the
alphabetical order will prevail or be restored. Click the Index-Imagebase link
in the Page Menu above to retrieve it.
Links to websites
to displaying some 300+ icons (one for each entry / iconographer), the
displays links to their websites which collectively hold more
than 7000 images in about 35 different countries.
Listed in the Index-Imagebase
also, you will find representatives that sell iconographers' icons, or distributors that sell
reproductions of either medieval or contemporary icons. For the most part these prints
(reproductions) are glued
onto durable wood with a finish to preserve the images.
Index-Imagebase is a large file, the largest of this website. When opening it, it will take some
time for all images to load. The page and page-links will not need to be reloaded, however, because
all links open in a new window. Thus you quickly return to it when closing the new window. Since
Index and Imagebase are on the same page, in the same window, all of the time, navigating back and
forth between Index and Imagebase is quick as well.
2. Byzantine Icons
Hand - Painting Byzantine Icons Today
In the context of this web page as well as beyond it, 'Contemporary Byzantine Icons'
is understood to comprise works of sacred art that have been hand-painted (written) in the
Traditional Eastern Orthodox style. The icons are painted by individual iconographers (icon
painters) under their own name, or under the name of a community, organization or school. Some
iconographers wish to remain anonymous. Icons can be purchased directly from the iconographer, or
from the iconographer's representative(s) (note 2)
. Smaller icons
are usually delivered from stock while larger icons are mostly commissioned, i.e. custom made to
Living Iconography Tradition terminated
When coming to the "Contemporary Byzantine Icons Page", which is where you are now,
you probably have some idea of what "Byzantine Icons" are and what it entails to make them. If
somehow you are not sure you do, you can read up on it on the following pages :
What are Byzantine
In short, Hand-painting (writing) Icons in the Traditional
Eastern Orthodox style implies obedience to the Canons of the Faith. The Canons (Greek word for
"rules" or "measures") ensure that icons painted today have the same "external" (visual) and
"internal" (spiritual) characteristics as icons painted in the 11th-15th centuries. In the years
(decades or more) following the victory over the Iconoclasts in 843, the Orthodox Church laid down
a set of rules to govern the painting of icons and frescoes : personnages and events, the media to
paint on, the materials and tools to be used, etc. Among others, this was done to prevent creating
conditions, at some time in the future, that could
precipitate new attacks by iconoclasts.
However, over and above the 'physical' rules, it has been
difficult, if not impossible, to entirely lay down with the written word the necessary spiritual
dimension, i.e. what Vladimir Grigorenko
calls "the (living)
iconography tradition". The lifestyle, prayer, fasting and other elements that it comprised and had
been transmitted within the faith from one generation to the next, from master to follower, from
teacher to disciple, was no longer handed down.
Says Vladimir Grigorenko (see
Interview with Vladimir Grigorenko
) : "It needs to be understood
that in the post-communism world after two world wars and several regional wars in Central
and Eastern Europe icon painting was no longer taught from one generation to the next. There
no longer was an elder who knew and could teach the younger generation. The genuine (living)
iconography tradition had been terminated. This doesnt mean to say this happened because of
communists pressure or regional wars. Rather, it was the result of a very long and gradual
process which we just have no time to discuss here."
his article Iconographers of the Twentieth Century
Hart cites the growing decadence in icon painting in Greece, Russia and the Balkans as a major
reason for the loss of the living iconography tradition (see Aidan Hart
While in these days (2006) we are seeing a strong revival of icon
painting, not every iconographer will feel compelled to do as thorough a search for icon-painting
guidelines as Vladimir Grigorenko. As a result, some icon painters may end up copying old icons
while others may employ painting methods that are easy and quick.
Byzantine Painting to be Re-Assimilated
Leading iconography experts already had
recognized this. In fact, using different wording, they were the first to say that it is next to
impossible to recuperate the Canon in all its details, that the only way to get back onto the right
path is to re-assimilate byzantine painting (Fr. Zinon, Deacon Serafim and others). In the sections
that follow you will find five articles each by a different author. In it the issue is being
discussed to various degrees, together with some new approaches as part of an effort to regain lost
Iconographers of the Twentieth Century
- by Aidan Hart, England
Aidan Hart is
England's leading iconographer. Born in 1957, Aidan Hart has been a professional icon and fresco
painter for over twenty years. He also is a theologian and wood carver. He studied iconography in
the UK and during three years in Thessalonica and Mount Athos. He has had works commissioned by HRH
The Prince of Wales, and by many churches and individuals around the world.
Of particular interest to the reader would be Aidan Hart's vast
knowledge and understanding of iconography in its historical context and his interpretation thereof
as it applies to Orthodox iconography today. In an excellent article titled
of the Twentieth Century (PDF)
, written in 2000, he provides an overview of essential elements,
without getting bogged down into details : a "must read" for every iconographer conscious of the
importance of maintaining the Canon, while going beyond merely making copies of 12th-century icons.
Click this line to visit Aidan Hart's website
Interview with Vladimir Grigorenko
Vladimir Grigorenko is an accomplished iconographer.
Born in Ukraine, he came to the US in the year 2000 to paint the icons in the Iconostasis of the
newly built St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas TX, and to decorate the entire church with
frescoes. In the Interview, Vladimir talks about his life as iconographer and thereby brings up
some fascinating and broad ranging issues pertinent to Iconography as a profession and pertinent to
the Church as a sacred institution. In the interview Vladimir gives a personal in-depth account of
issues surrounding the revival of iconography today.
that follows takes you to the
Section in the Interview where Vladimir Grigorenko talks about these issues
(it starts off with "A Window into the Kingdom of Heaven" ). Click the next link if you want to
All of the Interview
, or this 3rd link to see the
Iconostasis in the St.
Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral
Testimonies of Orthodox Russia
- by Deacon Serafim
In an article titled Testimonies of Orthodox Russia -
Contemporary Icons: the Birth of Religious Art
, Deacon Serafim points out that the
spiritual traditions [ of icon painting ] are entirely lost and that in view thereof icon writing
cannot simply resume its course by copying icons of the 11th to 15th centuries. The article
continues by saying that if today's iconography is to renew itself, it will be necessary to
re-assimilate the Byzantine iconography.
The original link to the
article [ on the site http://www.st-nicholas-sd.org ] disappeared, but after a few web searches the
article was found back on the site of the Moscow Icon-Painting Center [
The article there is titled "The religious meaning of the icons
and the principal contemporary iconographical schools"
. Since the article had already disappeared
once, in order to avoid losing sight of it altogether, I took the liberty to re-print it on this
page, and in the meantime sent an email to The Moscow Icon-Painting Center to request their formal
approval for doing so. Click the following link to go to the re-print
The icons that showed in the original
article are beautiful : the Mother of God Hodegetria, and the Savior, both by Ol'ga Skrobotova,
Studio "Kanon", 1999. Studio "Kanon", however, also disappeared. And with it some 50 icons. The
consolation price: the beautiful icons on the new site [
Click the link to the
Icon-Painting Center in the Index-Imagebase
Or go directly
to their gallery http://www.rusicon.ru/eng/centre/gallery
==> 13 icons. Superb!
Moscow Icon Painting at the Close of the XXth Century
- by Svetlana Rjanitcyna, Russia
Svetlana Rjanitcyna was born in1967 in Moscow. From early childhood she liked to draw. She
studied at the art school "Surikovskaya", where she had remarkable teachers, the now famous
talented artists Andrijaka S.N. and Vishnjak M.V. They taught her to work with persistence and
showed her the beauty of ancient Russian painting. The artist is a follower of
, one of Russia's outstanding iconographers.
Recently, the artist wrote an article in which she analyses the
Moscow icon painting scene. In order to do so she needed to push her own likes and dislikes to the
background so as to be able to function as an art critic. As such she reviews the work of
individual iconographers. As well, she tries to identify potential problems. The monograph is in
Russian with a Summary in English.
Click the link that follows to
read the English Summary http://www.rsvetal.narod.ru/diplom1e.htm
Note: Patience is required to load it.
Artistic and Commercial Revival of Religious Painting
- by Anna Hatziyannaki, Greece
the paragraphs that follow Anna Hatziyannaki makes a distinction between "artistic" and
"commercial" revival of religious painting : "The fact that Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons are museum items found
only in finite numbers has finally lead to a revival of the art of icon painting which, until
recently, served the needs of churches and religious people; it is only in recent years that icons
are also seen as decorative elements.
At this point we need to
distinguish between the artistic and the commercial revival of religious painting, although both
these terms are debatable. Let me put this in another way: there is a contemporary religious
painting which respects the themes, the techniques and the style of Byzantine and post-Byzantine
art, and there is also the production of bad copies. As usual in the revival of an older artistic
movement, next to the serious specimens found in museum shops and select galleries one finds a host
of crude, mass-produced copies."
The complete text can be
found in: The tradition of
religious painting in Greece
3. Exhibitions & Special Features
Contemporary Icons - Exhibitions
Following are two Contemporary Icons Exhibitions that took place in
Europe earlier in the year. Hopefully, in the future, we will know in advance when they will be
taking place. Fortunately, we can still see some of the icons that were exhibited. We also see that
the revival of iconography is for real.
Both exhibitions were
reported on by THE TABLET : Through Eyes of Faith
Two exhibitions highlight an intense debate about how icons can beckon towards eternity,
while also reflecting the times of their making.
- by LAURA GASCOIGNE for THE TABLET -
Richness and Diversity - Contemporary Balkan Icons
- by Lazar Predrag Markovic,
Lazar Predrag Markovic, Serbia, sent me a message to let us know that he is taking a
Travelling Exhibition of Balkan icons through several countries in North and North-West Europe.
Says Lazar "It is a unique Exhibition as it presents traditional icons (copies of Byzantine icons)
and also rarely seen naive and modern icons".
- Here is the main link to the Exhibition :
Balkan Icons Exhibition
- Here is the Front Page link without frames. Attention !!! - this link misses
out on the Frame links : http://www.balkan-icons.com/FrontPage.html
The Exhibition may be considered a 'snapshot' of what is going on
in religious painting in the Balkans, today. Some of the works may surprise by being quite
different from traditional icons. Unfortunately, one cannot identify the authors of the works,
except for the icon of Saint Martyr Sophia who appears on the front page of the Exhibition website.
Dressed in a green-blue mantle, she is shown with her daughters Faith, Hope and Love. It's an icon
made by Biljana Jovanovic (see listing in Index-Imagebase
appreciate being able to see all three iconographical expressions together in one exhibition.
Thank you, Lazar, for bringing us these interesting and beautiful
Sacred Iconography - A Living Tradition
- by Dr. Stéphane René
and Aidan Hart
"A unique exhibition of sacred icons painted in the Russian, Greek, Coptic and
Ethiopian styles of orthodox iconography will be (was) shown at The Princes School of
Traditional Arts, 19-22 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3SG from 19 April to 12 May 2006. This event
will bring (brought) together artists from parts of the world where the art continues to be
practiced as part of a living tradition."
- InHTML format - http://www.iconsexplained.com/iec/iec_idb4c_@mirrorsite_of_sacrediconographyframe.htm
- In PDF format -
Many participating exhibitors are iconographers as well as icon
Special Features - Contemporary Icons
Some time ago, a separate page was made telling
about some events that in my eyes were special, if not unique, and which I explored in further
detail. Identified by name and date, the events are reported on a page named
Click the link to see for yourself.
Byzantine Iconographers : List your web presence - FREE !
Click the link :
List your web
presence in the Iconographers' Index-Imagebase, it's FREE !
Offer / Message to Byzantine
Your iconography work may be present and visible on the web in the form of a
website or under some other form. An art critic may have written a review of your work, for
example, or a journalist may have written a story, in the printed media or online. Some of your
works may be showing (online) as well. In either case you can be listed free of charge. If this is
of interest to you, please click on
on the one above.
P.S.: Please note that this Offer
is made to Byzantine Iconographers only.
. Most of the images on these
Contemporary Byzantine Icons pages are protected by the copyright of the respective artist or
association. They are shown here with permission of the artists. In most cases If an artist is
claiming copyright for his image(s) an explicit copyright statement is made on the page showing his
icon or mural.
Images not protected by the copyright of the
respective artist or association, are protected by the copyright of the author of this website.
refers to organizations representing a number of iconographers. They sell and distribute their
icons. (Come and See, Trinity Stores and others.) (3) Distributors
. Distributors refers to independent sales organizations who
have their own iconographers to produce icons for them of various sizes. They may also sell prints
glued on durable wood with a finish (lamination) to preserve the images. Skete.com (Orthodox Icons
of St. Isaac of Syria Skete), Religious Icons from Greece, ReligiousMall / Religious.Net and
ArtGreece are the ones best known. (4) Music.
Choral chant can be
easily listened to. Click the link below for Sacred Music, then click item 1,28m, it is beautiful
and has a long play time. Wait till the pop-up window (upper left corner) disappears, then click
the back arrow in your browser to return to this screen. Rimsky-Korsakov > item 1, 28m(5)
. An occasional opinion expressed on this website is strictly that of the author
and does not implicate the Church, or any other organization or individual. No claim is made that
data shown on this website is complete or without errors. Please send me an email if you do find an
I thank all among you who have granted permission for showing some of
your works and/or expressed your appreciation for these pages. I sincerely hope that these pages
may contribute to a wider sharing of the visual and spiritual beauty of the Byzantine Icon.
Once again, thank you for your interest and enjoy your visit!
Re-print of the article by Deacon Serafim :
The religious meaning of the icons
and the principal
contemporary iconographical schools
The icon (from the Greek: "image") represents one of
the most important means of the tradition of the Orthodox Church. Its meaning for the spiritual
life of the Christian was fixed by the dogma on the veneration of the icons of the VII Ecumenical
Council, Nicea in 787 before Christ. According to the definition of the Council, the icon like the
Cross and the Gospel, can be revered with incense, candles, kisses and bows: "the honour attributed
to the image is transferred to the primitive image, to the prototype and to bow in front of the
icon means to bow in front of who is represented." Every church and every house must have an icon
and in the liturgical services the gesticulation of the icon veneration is expressed.
image not only preserves the truth of the Sacred Tradition, the truth of the incarnation in the
history of the Word of God, but also the transcendent and unattainable truths by the common
perception. losif Volockij, Russian saint of the 16th century, reflecting on the icon of the
Trinity, says: "what is not possible to see with eyes (of the body), can be contemplated with the
In fact, the source of the iconography is constituted by the sacred
history (the Old Testament, the Gospel, the life of the saints) and by the theological speculation
of the Orthodox Church, by its Fathers and iconographers, by the mystical experience and of prayer
of the ascetics. In the orthodox iconography, the image of the Saviour of the world, of the Child
of incarnated God, is founded upon three miraculous images "not made by man", but by God: "The
Saviour not created by man" of king Abgar's sheet, the image of Christ with the crown of thorns of
the cloth of Veronica and the image of the body of Christ of the Saint Shroud. Besides, the
iconography of Christ includes the interpretation of the oral tradition, the description of the
semblance of the Child of God kept on times of the apostles as the teachings of the Church on
Christ, God, Judge and incarnated Almighty. The numerous images of the Mother of God are based on
the copies of the icons painted by the apostle Luke (according to the tradition), on the icons
which appeared in a miraculous way and on the theological reflection of the Church on the Mother of
God, as Virgin, as Queen of the Sky and the Earth, as Interceptor for the whole world in front of
the Holy Child. The iconography of the saints reproduces the testimony of their disciples and the
teaching of the Church, for this reason every man is image of God and the holiness is the authentic
divination of the man. In the icons the saint not only is a historical character, but also the man
transfigured by the Grace of God; he has reached salvation and he opened his heart to the
compassion to the prayer and the help of all the believers.
The symbolic icons or the sacred images (as the representations of the
Church of Christ under the form of an ark, of the Last Judgment) are allegorical descriptions,
particular artistic interpretations of the dogmatic and mystical teachings of the Church. According
to nun Julijana Sokolova's words, one among the most eminent contemporary iconographers teachers,
"there is no independent art. The iconography is a part of the life of the Church, one of its
expressions... The Church expresses in the images its own teachings, its own history, and the
dogmas of the faith or the theology and the prayer as breath of the spiritual life... The language
of the icon has been elaborated by the wisdom of the Church, the people and the history under the
guide of the always present Holy Ghost."
The iconographical tradition, already present in
the first period of the Christianity, came in the Rus' through Constantinople, from which derives
the orientation and the style of the Russian iconography. It reached his apex with the works of the
schools of Andrej Rublev, Dionysus and Theophan the Greek. To the beginning of the 20th century in
Russia a treasure of icons was accumulated and it was esteemed around 200 million plates, a lot of
those of high artistic level. If we consider the icons as objects of art, then no country all over
the world would have been able to equalize Russia for cultural wealth. Nevertheless, during the
20th century, with the victory of the atheist and antinationalist Soviet power, many iconographical
studios were ransacked, so many icons were destroyed or brought abroad. The rebirth of the
iconography took back in the seventies in the Monastery of the Caves of Pskov, in the Lavra of the
Trinity of St. Sergej and in Moscow; nevertheless, the exponential growth of the activity of
writing of the icons was realized with the restitution from the State to the Church of the
Monastery of St. Danilij in Moscow for the Millenary of the baptism of the Rus'.
Naturally the iconographical schools do not exist today anymore as those
of the past centuries; in the Russian contemporary iconography three main orientations can be
The first one continues the tradition of the academic painting and the
iconography of the 19th century and it is represented not by iconographers, but by painters that
approached to the iconography and to the frescos of the churches thanks to the restoration as for
example the colossal one of the church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The decorations have been
realized, during the past year, by an equipe of painters under the academician Zurab Cereteli's
guide. However, this orientation, sustained by secular artists and, sometimes, not believers, does
not have great importance in the development of the authentic iconography.
The second orientation of the Russian contemporary iconography is
originated by the craftsmanship, as for example Palech or Mstera. The artisan laboratories, that in
the past century gave life to a mass production of icons, during the years of the atheism had to
convert themselves to the realization of souvenir as for example the little boxes of lacquered wood
and the matrioske. In this type of objects the figurative tradition of the different schools, which
are distinguished for the refined decorum, the elegant miniature and the presence of the popular
motives, is preserved. Nowadays, however, the number of these teacher-artisans is very decreased,
both for the decadence that the craftsmanship suffered in the seventies, and because the technical
complex of the decorative iconography requires a prolonged study, a very long time for production
and, accordingly, financially well-to-do clients.
Nevertheless the main orientation of the
contemporary iconography in the Russian Orthodox Church, reborn after the epoch of the
persecutions, is based on the iconographical Byzantine and Russian traditions of the epoch of
Andrej Rublev (15th century). Many of the exponents of this tendency are priests; person who
reached the world of the iconography by the restoration and others that do not have a professional
One of the most famous exponents of the rebirth of the ancient
iconographical tradition is the archimandrite Zinon. He says: "Being the spiritual traditions
entirely lost, to turn to the image of the 15th century doesn't make any sense. It is necessary to
return to the sources of our spirituality through the assimilation of the Byzantine iconography.
Today the iconographer has to follow the same itinerary that made the Russian iconographers in the
first years of the Christianity of the Rus', when the models were the Greek icons." Deacon Serafim