(1895-1965), was the foremost iconographer in Greece in
the 20th century. The revival of Byzantine iconography
began in 1930 mostly due to this man. Byzantine
iconography has spread to Europe, America and elsewhere.
This revival has also taken place in Romania and among
the Russians of the diaspora.
This form of iconography
is in demand everywhere. Photios Kontoglou's iconography
has been misunderstood by many. He had grown in his work
from being somewhat rustic to his more stylized pieces.
Often he diverged from his usual way of painting the
icon, in order to enhance his talent, gaining an
appreciation for other techniques. Consequently, it is a
mistake to stereotype his iconography.
In 1943 he began to write about this sacred art in an
extensive and authoritative way, wishing to explain its
features and to show its enormous value. In 1960 he wrote
Ekphrasis - the explanation of Orthodox Iconography. This
book is a valuable guide for the iconographer to learn
the technique of painting the icon according to byzantine
tradition. Also, for the general reader "to
penetrate to the deeper, spiritual essence of the icons
done according to this great tradition" (C.
"Byzantine art," Kontoglou says, "is
for me the art of arts. I belive in it as I believe in
(Orthodox) religion. Only this art nourishes my soul,
through its deep and mysterious powers; it alone quenches
the thirst that I feel in the midst of the arid desert
that surrounds us. In comparison with Byzantine art, all
the others appear to me trivial, 'troubling themselves
about many things, when but one thing is needed'."
iconographers bring the spiritual world into time and
space for which reasons the icon is not
"naturalistic" and "realistic". It's
purpose has a religious function. It wants to express
sanctified things to help man see with spiritual eyes the
Holy Mysteries of the Christian revelation.
Iconography offers a vision of time and eternity.
Using sacred and symbolic forms and colors, Kontoglou
represents that vision in a dramatic fashion. To
demonstrate his purpose he employed sober colors, simple
shapes and bold lines.
Photios Kontoglou never held the elitist position that
painting icons was restricted to intellectuals, or
professional artists. Even the illiterate have painted
them. Like the Holy Scriptures, the icon is the work of
the Holy Spirit.
His relics are incorrupt, a validation of his works.
Links of interest:
Holy Orthodox Church in North America
Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation
The Orthodox Christian Foundation
Saint Nectarios Press
New Ostrog Monastery
The Holy Tradition of Prosphora Baking
Orthodox Community of St. Aidan, Manchester, UK
Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church
A Guide to Byzantine Icons on the Internet
St Anthony the Great Orthodox Mission
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Unique and Exquisite Russian Lacquer Art
Regina Orthodox Press