During the last century, the subject of iconography often was passed over by art critics, even though painters such as Matisse and Picasso went to Russia especially to study this art form. Recently, there has been an explosion of interest in icon painting, and the present work was the first to give a reliable introduction into the spiritual context of this art
The nature of the icon cannot be grasped by means of pure art criticism, or by gazing through a lens of sentimentality. Its forms are based on the spiritual concepts of the Eastern Orthodox Church—perhaps foreign to a post-Christian, post-modern world, but necessary to understand the world of the icon. It is not the purpose of the icon to please its contemplator; neither is its purpose to recall the human experience from natural life. Rather, the icon leads every human sentiment and logical construct toward the kingdom of God, and into this world steps the viewer.
In this work, an explanation of the technique of icon-painting is followed by the main part of the book, in which both authors describe the most important types of icons. Apart from a detailed description of the icon screen (iconostasis) of the Russian Church, fifty-eight other types are explained, with the aid of an equal number of illustrations, among which are ten various representations of the Virgin Mary.
The contemplative lives of both authors immeasurably authenticated this work, for the true meaning of the icon can only be interpreted by human beings rooted in the same spirit as the art itself. Leonid Ouspensky and Vladimir Lossky, iconographer and theologian, lived their art forms to the glory of God, as this fine work attests.
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