The Prosopon School of Iconology introduces students to the practice and theory of the ancient Christian art of Byzantine icon writing. Apprenticeship in this discipline of the hand, mind, and heart can lead beyond technical competence; the method of study promotes the incarnation of the principles of the painting experience into the other spheres of one's life. Because an icon is said to be the "Gospel in color," the School welcomes inquiring students from all backgrounds and of all levels of artistic competence. The School additionally encourages the search for a more profound experience of the Christian icon by means of exhibits, lectures, and publications.
ICONOGRAPHIC STYLE AND METHOD
Byzantine Church painting has flowered in different historical epochs and in different lands in various ways. Yet traditional iconography always remains within the bounds of a certain unspoken canon guided by the specific world view of the Christian faith. Today, the iconographer within the Prosopon School attempts to produce icons reflecting an inner mysterious depth and natural vibrancy evident in the greatest ancient examples of the tradition. Especially valued in the School is the transparency and luminescence of ancient Russian icon painting which reached a unique height at around the fifteenth century. However, there is no attempt to copy old icons directly. Tradition is not a thing of the past; it necessarily rejuvenates itself, clothing the eternal in new forms corresponding to the possibilities of the given era and thereby exerting an influence on contemporary life. To produce a living icon, the aspiring iconographer must immerse him or herself in the theological and iconological principles taught by the Church while working on the refinement of his or her sense of artistic nuance.
As is fitting to the icon’s sacred function, predominantly natural materials are used in the School: wooden panels gessoed with natural ground, genuine gold leaf applied by the bole method, egg tempera with 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 in the liturgical services of the Church. Although the striving is for a high artistic level, the focus of the icon writer is nevertheless on personal spiritual discipline and growth within the teachings of the Orthodox Church.
The School offers intensive week-long workshops organized in various locations throughout North America and Europe. Ongoing weekly classes in the instructors' studios are offered as well. Students are introduced to the practical and theoretical aspects of icon writing. Interpretations of iconographic symbolism and the theological and anthropological basis of each step of the process are presented in parallel to the technical instruction. By the end of an intensive workshop, the beginner completes all of the steps of writing an icon. No artistic experience is required of the beginning student.
The Prosopon School does not hold the preparation of professional icon writers as its foremost purpose, although such a possibility is not excluded. The main goal of study is rather to cultivate a clearer consciousness of the Image of God according to which man was created. The student is (re)introduced to the teaching of the Church through the language of line, light, and color. Notions are drawn from Scripture, Tradition, and Patristic thought. Through the visual language of the icon, the student may move toward a clearer understanding of that which stands beyond the symbol and toward a better vision of the self, the world, and the Divine. By writing an icon, the student works toward the reestablishment of the original untarnished condition of man’s image in a disciplined way.
HISTORY AND FOUNDER
The Prosopon School of Iconology was founded by iconographer Vladislav Andrejev, who was born in 1938 in St Petersburg, Russia. After receiving a formal education in the Tavrichesky School of Art and the Moscow Polygraphic Institute, Vladislav became interested in religious art which, however, was impossible to practice during the Soviet regime. The search for deeper meaning in life and art urged him on to solitary travels in parts of the Russian wilderness, including the Carpathian and Caucasus mountains, where Orthodox monk-recluses lived in hiding. The search also led him to encounters with the monk-iconographer Abbot Alipiy of the Pskov Caves Monastery and to independent study of icon painting. In 1980 Vladislav emigrated to the United States with his family. Becoming established in America during a period when interest in the icon was growing, he has since written numerous icons which can be seen in churches and homes throughout America and the world. Vladislav has been teaching and lecturing since 1985.
Over the years Vladislav’s iconographic technique and teaching method developed into a distinct school of painting and iconological interpretation. In 2000, the Prosopon School of Iconology was formally named, receiving the blessing of Archbishop Peter (L'Huillier) of New York and New Jersey, and the support of Theodosius, Metropolitan of all America and Canada (OCA). In this new stage of growth, the School is composed of the founder and a core faculty of trained instructors, each at the head of a Prosopon studio in several locations throughout the USA and Europe. Since its inception, the School has introduced a few thousand students to the theory and practice of iconography through its workshops.
© PROSOPON SCHOOL Of ICONOLOGY 2016