Icon painting has reached its zenith in Ukraine between the 11th and 18th centuries. This art is appealing because of its great openness to other influences – the obedience to the rules of Orthodox Christianity in its early stages, the borrowing from Roman heritage or later to the Western breakthroughs – combined with a never compromised assertion of a distinctly Slavic soul and identity.
This book presents a handpicked and representative selection of works from the 11th century to the late Baroque period.
Among graphic arts, the icon took first place in Russian life. Apart from the early Novgorod wall-painting, we may call the icon the chief expression of religious thought and popular feeling as early as the fourteenth century. Later, when wall-painting became subordinate to icon-painting, the icon became the one and only symbol of faith. In view of its special significance and its derivation from the Byzantine model, the Russian icon takes its place as the continuation of a high artistic tradition and in its development offers an unparalleled example of artistic craftsmanship. In its decorative qualities, the uniqueness of its composition, the severity of its types, the ideal character and spiritual depth of the religious thought it conveyed, the icon is to be compared with the early period of religious art in Western Europe. Besides this, the historian of art must bear in mind that the easel-picture arose over time from the icon. They must make every effort to comprehend the artform of the Russian icon in order to understand the historical traditions lying behind easel painting and influencing it to this day. Finally, from the early eighteenth century to the present day, the Russian icon has long existed as a handicraft or kustár’ product.