Friday, November 11, 2011

New Book on Icon Painting by Aidan Hart

It is with much excitement that I await the arrival of a new book on the theology, history and painting techniques of icon painting. I have just heard that this has now been published by Gracewing in the UK and he told me that as yet there is no US distributor. If anybody knows how I can get hold of a copy, let me know! You can see details on his website here.

Looking at the contents it is extremely thorough. It discusses the various styles of iconography, Eastern and Western. In painting techniques it describes, step by step with illustrations (there are 460 illustrations in its 450 pages) and covers both the membrane technique - where the form is modelled in monchrome and thin washes of colour are placed over before final modelling; and the 'proplasmos' technique, where the painter starts with dark layers of paint and moves to the highlights systematically. He covers egg tempera, fresco and secco. To have a book with so many illustrations of his work makes it worthy of consideration for that alone (it retails at 40GBP).

Aidan is a superb teacher (the best I have come across) who in his classes who reduces things to underlying principles quickly and simply so equipping the student to do much to teach himself after he leaves. The reports I am getting from England of those who have seen it are that it is every bit as good as it promised to be.

As a faithful Orthodox Christian, Aidan has the prejudices against other, Catholic, artistic liturgical traditions and culture that one would expect. As with any book by Orthodox, Catholics should be ready for this, but in my experience, there is little that we should be worrying about in such a discussion of the iconographic tradition, and much to learn. Certainly I am going to find out how to get hold of a copy and will report as soon as do so.

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