Novgorodian easel - painting has a long and complex history. Its origins go back to the eleventh century. Its first flourishing was in the twelfth - thirteenth centuries, and the second, the greatest, in the late fourteenth and throughout the fifteenth centuries. Afterwards, the art gradually began to decline, and though individual icons of excellent quality continued to be produced on Novgorodian soil, they nevertheless fell short of the earlier work. This is understandable, for the loss of Novgorod's independence and privileges led to the gradual disappearance of the factors which had brought about the great flourishing of its art.
Present - day historians like to stress the fact that Novgorod was a boyar republic ruled by a boyar oligarchy which had skilfully exploited the Council of Citizens (Veche) to further its own interests. What is much more important, however, is that before its annexation by Muscovy, Novgorod was a free city which had its own republican way of life, its own economic structure, its own great cultural traditions. A large territory, fertile soil, abundant natural wealth and skilful economic management - all these factors had contributed to the prosperity of "Gospodin Velikiy Novgorod" (Lord Novgorod the Great), which was famed through out Eastern Europe for its wealth and business acumen.
If we compare the art of Novgorod as a whole with that of Kievan Rus', the Principality of Vladimir - Suzdal' and the Grand Duchy of Moscow, we are immediately impressed by its full - blooded nature, its strong affinity with life, its close kinship with the people. It is striking in its freshness and spontaneity. Novgorodian painting is keynoted by the spelling force of its images, achieved through an original colour scheme, vivid and glowing. The artists of Novgorod did not favour complicated, intricate subjects. The involved symbolism of both Byzantine theologians and West European scholastics was alien to them. They preferred to depict the most venerated local saints (Florus and Laurus, Elijah, Anastasia, Paraskeva Pyatnitsa and others) who were counted on to help them in their farming and their trade. Lining the saints up in a row, beneath the image of the Virgin of the Sign, which came to be regarded as the city's emblem, Novgorodians treated the icon without undue ceremony, as an old friend. They confided their innermost thoughts to it, and they fully expected it to help them in everything that they regarded as important and urgent. This approach to icon - painting tended to bring it closer to life. It would be wrong, however, to underestimate the visionary element in Novgorodian icon - painting. Like all medieval art it contains much that is abstract, conventional, much that transplants all images onto a different plane where the action takes place in a setting that is outside time and space. This original combination of seemingly irreconcilable elements is the source of the Novgorodian icon's unfading charm: though the Novgorodian artist stands foursquare on the ground, his thought soars up into the sky. Even there, however, he does not lose the gift of lending to his visions an extremely vivid and concrete form.
Novgorodian Icon - Painting Book
Novgorodian Icon - Painting Album
Novgorodian Icon - Painting Pages
Novgorodian Icon - Painting Illustrations
Novgorodian Icon - Painting Notes