Saturday, February 20, 2010

Russian Iconographer, Fr. Gregory Krug, 1908-1969

The work of the 20th century Russian iconographer and monk, Fr. Gregory Krug (1908-1969), is rather interesting, particularly as it is an example that is clearly rooted within the Byzantine iconographic tradition, and yet there is also something of a contemporary sort of quality to it as well.

Fr. Krug, born Georgii Ivanovich Krug in St. Petersburg, the son of a Swedish Lutheran Father and Russian Orthodox mother, as a young man emigrated from his native Russia to Paris, where he attended the Academy of Arts which was opened in Paris, and there met and established a friendship with another man who would also become a well known 20th century iconographer, Leonid Ouspensky. His time as an iconographer began when he studied the iconographic tradition under Federov, Stelletsky and Sister Jean Reitlinger.

In the latter part of the 1930’s, Krug (along with Ouspensky) joined an association of Eastern Orthodox theologians, intellectuals and artists which established itself in Paris known as the “Stavropegial Brotherhood of Saint Photios” of whom another member was the respected Byzantine theologian, Vladimir Lossky (author of The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church).

Krug would eventually move to the Skit du Saint-Esprit near Mesnil-Saint-Denis, France, to function as a reader and eventually become a monk. This skete is particularly associated with Krug's work, since the icons within were substantially painted by him. (Sadly, a photograph of the full interior has not been forthcoming.)

Skit du Saint-Esprit

Returning to the particular stylistic qualities of Krug's iconography, the well respected contemporary iconographer, Aidan Hart (whose work has a similar quality in its own right), has this to say of Krug's iconographic work:
Fr. Gregory’s icons are stylistically unique. While remaining true to the principles of the icon tradition, he has his own unique way of expressing these principles. One such feature is his use of darts of pure white highlights, which float over a sea of uneven colour. Also, the over-sized irises and pupils of his eyes give an impression of tenderness, sadness devoid of sentimentality, and of a deep interior life.

Fr. Gregory’s icons stand above all for a marriage of freedom within and a deep respect for the Church’s iconographic tradition. His work is devoid of that unhealthy type of fear which so easily leads to lifeless copying, but nor is it disdainful of the Church’s wise traditions.

Source: Iconographers of the Twentieth Century

Indeed, as noted earlier, Krug's work presents us with a sort of contemporaneity, a development, that is also clearly in continuity with and deeply respectful of the tradition.

Without further ado, here is some of Krug's iconographic work.

Those who are interested in seeing and reading more about Fr. Krug's work may be interested in The Light of Christ, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.

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