The Greatest Church Painter of Our Time

posted by Baker Galloway

The iconographer Archimandrite (priest-monk) Zenon Theodor painting the walls of St. Nicholas Cathedral, Vienna in 2008. 

The practice of icon painting in the tradition of the Orthodox Christian Church is experiencing a renaissance that began in the mid-20th century. It is widely agreed that the foremost torchbearer of this tradition working today is a Russian priest-monk named Zenon Theodor. Although famous worldwide, little information about him was available in English until recently when my friend and teacher of icon-painting Aidan Hart wrote an account of his Life and Work

A few recent icon panels painted by Archimandrite Zenon, from St. Theodore Cathedral, Petersburg:

Icon painting is a particular interest of mine and at some point I hope to share more about its particular techniques, deep layers of meaning, its place in the Orthodox Church, and my experience learning this traditional art form. But for today I'll just let my teacher speak for himself about his hero. 

I am not given to adulation: it places too heavy a burden of expectation on the unfortunate recipient, and often hinders the adorer. But I must confess I border on adulation for the works of the contemporary Russian iconographer and fresco painter, Archimandrite Zenon (Teodor).

Every once in a while an iconographer appears who is free yet traditional, a wind of freshness, a new plant in a forest of conformity. Such is Father Zenon. His works have the ring of authenticity. He is constantly learning from different icon traditions, Western as well as Eastern, exposing himself to new influences – first the Moscow school of Andrei Rubliof, then earlier Byzantine work, then Romanesque, Armenian, and more recently, from works of Ravenna and early Rome. He unearths the secrets of masterworks, makes them his own, and then he paints without apparent labour.
— Aidan Hart