In Russian Orthodox branch of Christianity, there is a tradition of iconography
that has descended from Byzantium in the early Middle Ages and came into its own in
the work of Russian masters in 15-16th Centuries. Unlike the religious
art of Western Europe, icon painting in Russia did not experience a period of
Renaissance that lead to increasing concern with realism, focusing instead on
symbolic and spiritual aspects of representation. Icon painting thus developed into
a rather unique tradition, a set of its own forms/styles, and a form of
worship for those who practiced it.
Unfortunately, by 17th Century European influence
thoroughly pervaded this art practice and diluted its distinguishing features,
doing away with many meaningful aspects of the craft.
With the fall of Soviet Union and resurgence of sprituality in Russia, there has
been a new interest in reviving icon painting as a living art. In 2003 I've had a chance
to take some lessons at a school in New York City where instructors (and some students)
have a serious interest in the history and practice of iconography.
So far, I've been able to complete one icon at the Prosopon School and
attend a theory retreat in upstate NY.
Prosopon School of Iconology
This cinematic masterpiece by A. Tarkovsky is a great primer
on Russian history and iconography.