Painting an Icon of a Contemporary Saint, written by Aidan Hart

8 04 2011

I wrote a piece a while ago about the creation of an icon of a contemporary saint. I learnt about this from directly from my teacher Aidan Hart. I can remember once when I was visiting him he had created just such and icon – of New Martyr Elizabeth: a member of the Russian royal family who was murdered by the Bolsheviks. I thought I would ask Aidan to describe how he created this icon. What follows is his reply. Note how he is very clear that he is not aiming for a photographic-like likeness, but rather an image that infuses her physical characteristics with those elements of the iconographic form that will reveal more fully the true person.

Aidan wrote as follows: Read the rest of this entry »


Can Man Read the Symbolic Book of Nature Today?

1 04 2011

Or Should We Just Rely on Our Gothic Forebears? I recently wrote about the quincunx and its relationship to the traditional image of Christ in Majesty showing with symbolic representation of the four evangelists, here. Frenchman Emile Male described how the understanding of how these four figures related to the evangelists in the 13th century (his book is called, The Gothic Image). Male is drawing on a commentary on Ezekiel by Rabanus Maurus, the 9thcentury Benedictine monk and bishop of Mainz in Germany, which, he says became the authoritative text for the later gothic period. Reading this is helpful in understanding the roots of this symbolism, but rather like an earlier discussion of the pelican and the peacock, not without a few difficulties also.

Male recounts it as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Just What Do Catholics Believe About Icons?

24 05 2010

Icon of the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy

Do we have too high a regard for them? When I was young there was a TV advertisement for a candy bar that was chocolate-covered Turkish delight. The slogan ran: ‘Fry’s Turkish Delight- Full of Eastern Promise.’ Thanks to the wonder of You Tube I can indulge a bit of nostalgia as well as let you see advert here. The East it seems holds a fascination for the West. It evokes images of exotic mysticism that the West imagines, wrongly, it does not possess. I see this is a reflection of the general crisis in confidence of the West in its own culture. This has seen us ditch our own traditions and pull others things into the vacuum in an undiscerning and haphazard process. This is not always expressed so superficially as the Turkish delight advert and it is not always a bad thing. The growth of interest of icons, identified with the Eastern Church, has helped to ignite a greater movement towards the re-establishment of authentic Christian art in our churches. This is good, of course.

However, the same superficial fascination that can be harnessed to sell candy bars and many other things – books, films and so on – has created a mystique about icons that is inappropriate, I feel. Read the rest of this entry »

12th century Christian geometric art

5 05 2010

Some readers will already be aware of the Christian tradition of geometric and patterned art (see longer articles in the section Liturgy, Number, Proportion on the archive site). This was an adaptation of the patterned geometric art that we see in the pre-Christian classical period. TMC is, in a small way. The Way of Beauty class, students reproduce some of the patterns seen at the Romanesque Cappella Palatina in Sicily. Read the rest of this entry »

Is some sacred art too naturalistic?

15 04 2010

This article arose from a conversation with Shawn Tribe of the New Liturgical Movement website where it first appeared, who mentioned to me that he felt that many of the best examples of sacred art in the naturalistic style that we are being painted today lack something when compared with the baroque masters of the past. He felt that they looked too individualised – like portraits of the person next door, which makes it difficult to identify the figure portrayed with the saint and the ideals that the saint represents.  Is it possible that these modern examples of sacred art are too naturalistic? I agreed him and the following are my thoughts on the subject: Read the rest of this entry »