“Art has something that can help one to come nearer to the first Artist. As curious people used to look behind my back at what I was painting when painting in plain-air, so, in the same way, it would be good to be able to stand behind the back of God and watch Him creating.”
Father Sophrony, Sergei Sakharov (1896 – 1993) was one of the founding members of a society of painters called ‘Bytie’ or ‘Being’ in Moscow just after the Russian Revolution. Although he was sympathetic with the quest of his fellow artists to captivate a representation of true ‘Being’ that would endure, he gradually realised that he could not find anything in the art of his era except the image of the chaos that surrounded it. An intense period of spiritual search led him to faith in Christ, and he abandoned painting in order to devote himself to prayer. He became an Orthodox monk and then a priest on Mount Athos. After many years of ascetic striving, he left the Holy Mountain and upon establishing an Orthodox monastery in Essex, England, returned to painting in order to attempt to portray true ‘Being’ in icons of Christ and the saints. This book presents the dual inspirations of Father Sophrony’s iconography, focusing on the years of his artistic formation and relating this to his later reflections on the relationship of prayer, freedom and creativity.
From the abyss to the knowledge of Being
Painting true Being
Members of the ‘Bytie’ group
The abyss, asceticism and theology
About the author
Sister Gabriela studied iconography on the recommendation of St Sophrony before joining the monastery. She later assisted him in several artistic projects during the last years of his life. Her books are about what she learned while working with him on icons, church murals, and mosaics.