Regular readers of this column will already be aware that although icons are often thought by many to be exclusively Greek or Russian, there are many other Eastern variants and also Western traditions in iconography as well. All the Western forms of art up to the Romanesque correspond to the iconographic prototype. It is through the study of a variety different variants that one can gain a deeper understanding of the principles that unite all icons.
This summer at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, we will be holding an icon painting class in which students will have a chance to learn one of these Western forms. They will have a choice of a number of images that are English (and one German) 13th century icons. Although they have a characteristically northern Western European look, they are nevertheless in full conformity to the iconographic prototype.
This year I have been teaching the icon painting class as usual to the undergraduates at TMC and suggested to them that we look at some of these images. Interestingly they students were very enthusiastic to do so and their work is amongst the best that I have seen students here produce. I have been pondering over why this is: andmy feeling is that this is because as Catholics, we relate very naturally to those images that are part of our tradition. I have no objection to Russian and Greek icon styles in Western churches, I should add, but my hope for the future is that as we start to see a flowering of Catholic culture, which will come with the liturgical renewal now taking place, we will begin to a distinctive Western style developing. I do not anticipate that it will look precisely as sacred art did in the 13th century, but nevertheless I do think that this is well worth studying so that it will inform what develops in the future.
Those who are interested in finding out more information should go to the college website http://www.thomasmorecollege.edu/summerprogram/