8 Comments

  1. […] article I have written has been published by the online Orthodox Arts Journal under the title The Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Council of Frankfurt and the Practice of […]

  2. Thank you very much, Fr. Silouan, for bringing this article to our attention. Dr. Brooke’s observations about Byzantine versus Insular art are spot-on, in my opinion. Though I have always felt something along these lines when I look at Insular art, I have never had the clarity of thought to put it into words. I am most grateful for this article, as it has helped me make sense of things I had understood in my heart, but not quite in my mind.

    In particular, I look forward to applying this mode of analysis to decorative ornamentation in iconography. Occasionally one sees icons painted in the canonical Eastern style, which also incorporate decorative interlace. I refer, for instance, to so many icons produced in the Russian Empire circa 1900, which often have neo-Slavonic interlace decoration painted around the border. Or to modern icons of Celtic saints, where vestments and borders bear Kells-like ornament. I have always wanted to like such fusions. As a decorative artist and an Anglophile convert to Orthodoxy, the idea of fusing Byzantine iconography with insular decoration is obviously appealing. But I have usually felt that these icons are problematic. If the ornamentation is well done, and has the kind of dynamic movement typical of insular art, it distracts from communion with the figure in the icon. It pulls the eye away from the face, and into the puzzle of decorative contemplation. On the other hand, the ornamental details that more traditionally belong to Byzantine art tend to be more static. We can understand them fully in a single glance. I have often wondered why Byzantine ornamentation is so boring compared to Romanesque ornamentation, but this article has brought much clarity to the question. Static ornamentation, is, perhaps, a necessary complement to the spiritual immediacy of Byzantine art.

  3. John

    Just 1 brief word Glizes was the 1st person to use the term cubism; he was NOT the founder of the movement known as cubism although he may have been the “self proclaimed” founder .

    1. The term ‘Cubism’ was first used by people hostile to the movement as a term of ridicule, in particular Louis Vauxcelles, who also devised the term ‘Fauvism’, though Henri Matisse had exclaimed ‘Tiens, les petits cubes’ or something like that when he saw the first Cubist paintings of Georges Braque in 1908. In 1912, Gleizes and Jean Metzinger (partly in an effort to distinguish themselves from the Futurists who had ‘invaded’ Paris earlier in the year) published a sort of manifesto under the title Du “Cubisme”. The inverted commas are important and they begin by saying they’re adopting the term because it’s become generally accepted not because it adequately describes what they’re doing. Gleizes never claimed to be the founder of Cubism. On the contrary he always insisted that there was no individual founder, that it was a collective movement formed through the coming together of two separate currents – Picasso and Braque on the one hand, himself, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Henri Le Fauconnier and Jean Metzinger on the other. The historian Daniel Robbins coined the term ‘Epic Cubism’ to characterise this latter group – they went for big subjects in contrast to the intimate still life subject matter of Picasso and Braque. Gleizes’s view is now – at long last – becoming generally accepted, for example in the introduction to the Cubism Reader by Mark Antliff and Patricia Leighton (2008) and in the essay by Serge Fauchereau (previously a champion of the Picasso-centric view) in the catalogue of the 2012 Gleizes-Metzinger exhibition in Paris (which also as it happens contains an essay by me!).

      1. john

        Actually, Vaucelles coined the term “tubism” to describe Leger’s work. He only used the word cube to describe the pictures he saw by Braque etc. and he did not apply it to a general movement. These small omissions of fact smack of a rewrite of history. LOL Anyhow no mention of Gris and Mannerist cubism and then there werethe contemporary Russian practitioners. Conclusion: IMHO and many others; cubism was the most important art movement of the 20th century and still to this day over a century later, remains a viable and potent influence, Glizes was indeed part of a much bigger picture.

        1. I don’t understand what the problem is here. My article wasn’t about early Cubism. All I said about Gleizes was that he was a ‘twentieth century French painter.’ Father Silouan called him, and I of course, agree, ‘a father of Cubism.’ He didn’t say he was THE father of Cubism. But insofar as the article was about Gleizes it concerned the later development of his thought. If anyone wants to know my views on early Cubism and the relations between the different painters, including Juan Gris, I have a long essay, originally intended as the introduction to a new edition of Du “Cubisme”, at http://www.peterbrooke.org.uk/a%26r/Du%20Cubisme/contents I have no problems with John’s view that as far as the history of Cubism is concerned, Gleizes is ‘part of a much bigger picture’

          1. John

            …. apologies for my mistaken impressions although calling him “a” father of cubism is really overstating things anyhow excellent article albeit a bit dense for moi …and thanks for the link … All the best …

  4. I would really appreciate Jonathan Andrew or Fr. Silouan picking up where this article leaves off, or even Dr. Brooke himself.
    I would like to know a LOT more about the transition from insular pre-Carolignian iconography to what we call Romanesque iconography. I think further discussion on this topic is essential for any initiative to develop towards a contemporary indigenous iconography in western cultures – do we do this by means of revisiting these medieval (I use the term loosely) periods in our western history, or do we start from where we are today? I am yet to be convinced that the way forward involves recovering the Romanesque; it may be that the 21st century is the only place we can start, and the only ground that will ‘bear fruit’ is following the roots that are part of the continuity of orthodox faith.

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