Art Quiz: The Answer is 12th Century

An earlier “art quiz” question and answer — Question 44 — focused on icons. The “Novgorod” school of art produced many Russian medieval icons, such as “The Miracle of Saint George and the Dragon”.

The artist of this work is unknown. It is, however, an excellent example of art from the Novgorod period. This painting was done with tempera on a wood panel and is in a collection of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. The work was most likely completed between 1200 and 1250.

The “Novgorod” school or style of iconic art can actually be divided into distinct periods. The first began in the 12th century and lasted through the first half of the 13th century.

From Encyclopedia Britannica

The first important phase of the Novgorod school lasted through the 12th century and the first half of the 13th, a period during which the Byzantine tradition spread from southern Kiev, the first capital and cultural centre of Russia, to the northern centres of Novgorod and Vladimir-Suzdal. In this period fresco painting was the dominant art form. In the second half of the 12th century the hieratic, aristocratic artistic tradition of Kiev was abandoned in favour of a more informal approach that combined Byzantine severity of style with a tenderness of gesture and an anecdotal picturesqueness. This spirit was matched in the beginning of the 13th century by a shift toward lighter, brighter colours and flatter forms, a softening of facial types, and an increasing definition of form by means of a graceful, rhythmic line. The progressive importance of line over modeled form in Novgorod painting brought about a gradual change in the Byzantine image. Strongly modeled Byzantine figures were characterized by a direct and penetrating gaze that in turn engaged that of the viewer. But as the predominance of line flattened the figures and faces in Novgorod painting, the direct gaze receded into a dreamy, abstracted, introspective look. In addition, the line invited a contemplation of its abstract patterns; Novgorod painting began to emphasize the lyricism of these patterns rather than the immediate presence of the figures.

An excellent article on the Novgorod school can be found here: Novgorod School of Icon Painting.
I found this especially interesting:
The wealth and variety of Novgorodian painting are infinite, but practically all the creators of these numerous masterpieces have remained anonymous, and the names of only the three greatest Old Masters stand out as by-words among lovers of Russian art. In Russia, as in the West, practically all exponents of medieval Christian art were monks who worked for the glory of God and their monastery rather than for personal notoriety. These medieval artists rarely signed their panel paintings, and the three men whose names are in repute throughout Russia made no exception to this practice, but they were artists of such outstanding merit that their genius brought them fame in their own day and renown in ours.
Those three artists, by the way, were:
  • Theopanes the Greek
  • Andrei Rublev
  • Dionysius

All were part of the later Novgorod period and were influential in the further development of painting in Russia.

Yet another helpful resource comes from the American Association of Iconographers with this article:

Medieval Russian Icons

This is an art blog, and I try to avoid overt political statements. Yet I can’t ignore what is happening in the world, in Kiev, and throughout Russia and Ukraine. Today I want to share a link to TMORA — “The Museum of Russian Art” located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and share, as well, their position:

You can visit TMORA virtually to learn how you can help.

While at the site, you can also visit their online exhibitions, such as this one featuring icon Russian art.

Transcendent Art: Icons From Yaroslavl Russia


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