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THE PROSOPON SCHOOL OF ICONOLOGY

ICONS IN THE RUSSIAN-BYZANTINE TRADITION COMMISSIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS

    MISSION STATEMENT

 

 

 


The Prosopon School of Iconology introduces students to the practice and theory of the ancient Christian art of icon-writing in the Byzantine-Russian tradition. Apprenticeship in this discipline of the hand, mind, and heart can lead beyond technical competence and the familiarization with iconic symbolism: the method of study promotes the incarnation of the principles of the painting experience into all aspects of one's life. The School additionally encourages the search for a more profound experience of icons through exhibits, lectures, and the publication of the journal Prosopon.

ICONOGRAPHIC STYLE OF THE SCHOOL

The ancient Russian-Byzantine tradition of icon-writing reached its height during the XV century. Today, the iconographer within the School attempts to produce icons reflecting the same state of inner, contemplative depth evident in the greatest examples of ancient iconography. The task is accomplished through refinement of artistic nuance and attention to the iconographic canon and principles, rather than simply "copying." As in antiquity, only natural materials are used: wood panels gessoed with natural ground, genuine gold leaf applied by  the bole method, egg tempera using ground pigments, and linseed         oil finish.

The iconographic method of the School is characterized by a multi-step process in which the succession of steps is concrete and definite, as it is in the liturgical services of the Church. Despite the striving for a high artistic level, the focus of the icon-writer is nevertheless on personal spiritual discipline and growth within the guidelines of Orthodox Church teachings.

INSTRUCTION IN THE SCHOOL

The School offers intensive week-long workshops in various locations throughout North America, as well as regular studio icon-writing classes (in lower Central New York State and in downtown Manhattan).

Students are introduced to iconology, i.e. both the practical and the theoretical part of the iconographic tradition. Explanations of iconic symbolism, and the theological / philosophical bases of each step of the process are presented parallel to the technical instruction.

The Prosopon School does not hold the preparation of professional icon-writers as its foremost purpose (although such a possibility is not excluded), and no artistic experience is required of the beginning student. Rather, the main goal of study is to cultivate a clearer consciousness of the uncreated Image of God according to which man was created (Greek "eikon" means image), and to understand the various "layers" of created life, drawing on Scripture, Tradition, and Patristic thought. The student is reintroduced to the teaching of the Church through the language of light, color, image and symbol. From the principles of simple symbolic images—the "reverse perspective" language and other characteristically iconic elements—a student moves toward an understanding of that which stands beyond the symbol, and can gain a clearer vision of the Divine, of himself, and of the world. By writing an icon according to the divine canons, he works towards the re-establishment of the original condition of man’s tarnished image in a disciplined way.

BACKGROUND OF THE PROSOPON SCHOOL

The School was founded by iconographer Vladislav Andrejev, who was born in 1938 in St. Petersburg, Russia. After receiving a formal education in fine art, Mr. Andrejev became interested in religious art, which was impossible to express openly during those times of the Soviet regime. The search for deeper meaning in art and life led him to solitary travels in parts of the Russian wilderness, and to independent study of icon and fresco painting with a monk icon-writer.

Mr. Andrejev was able to emigrate to the United States in 1980 and currently lives in New York State. He has written a large number of icons which can be seen in many churches and homes throughout America and the world. He has been teaching iconography in North America for more than fifteen years, and during this time, a growing number of students has been introduced to this ancient Christian art.

Over the years, Mr. Andrejev's iconographic technique and teaching method have undergone development and, to a fair degree, standardization. As a result, a distinct "school" of painting and interpretation has evolved, one which strives to be a continuation of the ancient Russian-Byzantine tradition as well as a further step in its living development. Consequently, Mr. Andrejev, his two sons, and a handful of his students have recently begun to organize in a more official manner all the aspects of this school. Upon being named, the School has received the blessing of Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, and the approval of Metropolitan Theodosius (of all America and Canada). In this new stage of growth, the School continues painting and presenting instruction in icon-writing, now drawing on a core of faculty, but remains a non-incorporated group.