Schools of Icon Painting


What is special about Yaroslavian art of iconography? A good way to understand the Yaroslavian icon-painting school is to compare it to other schools.   The most famous school was based in Novgorod, the ancient capital of the Russian North. Novgorodian artists produced remarkably luminous icons. They skillfully recreated the illusion of light radiating from the panel.  Bright reds, whites and yellows are their strong point. The icons of another Northern city, Pskov are dark. Pskovians relished dense olives and greens. The effect is altogether different: somber and poetic.

Cinnabar reds, pinks, and emerald greens are Yaroslaian favorites.  In yaroslavian icons, the simplicity and transparency of the two great Northern schools of Novgorod and Pskov is replaced by lavishness and sophistication. The yaroslavian icons are ornate and tapestry-like A Yaroslavian artist is invested in decorative detail  … He likes to dress his saints and angels into beautiful textiles  brought by Yaroslavian merchants from distant lands. Nowhere in Russia did icon-painters like so much to paint embroidered fabrics and trims. Yaroslavians transplant Russian fashions and faces to the world above.

Icon-painting was team work. In an artel, each icon-painter had a specific job to do.  Apprentices   did clothing, buildings and background. They were called dolichniki, which literally means “painting before the face.” After that, work was carried out on faces and hands. Painting faces was an important task; it was entrusted to the head of the artel and other experienced icon-painters. Artels developed their own techniques and transmitted the secrets of their art from father to son.
Compositions were similar across the country. They were based on icon-painting manuals. Colors and decorative details set icon-painting schools apart from each other.