Art and Faith

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Pavel Korin. A Portrait of Fr Ivan, Our Priest in Palekh. 1931

A Portrait of Fr Ivan, Our Priest in Palekh (Pavel Korin, 1931)

I am offering four of the studies that Pavel Korin made for his monumental A Farewell to Rus. They are grand artistic works in their own right, historical documents in paint. This painting stands for all of the clergy who suffered at the time of the repressions. Note well that Fr Ivan is composed, but, he also has fear as well. Many of the clergy who compromised with the Soviets did so because their families were threatened by the commissars. How many of us would fold in such in a situation? Truly? That is why I believe that those who did such should be forgiven and their weakness forgotten. As for those who defended the Soviets from the freedom of the West… the less said the better!

Pavel Korin. A Portrait of the Churakovs, Father and Son. 1931

Filed under: fine art,human study,portrait,Russian,Soviet period — 01varvara @ 00.00

A Portrait of the Churakovs, Father and Son (Pavel Korin, 1931)

Another study for A Farewell to Rus. This work reminds us that not only clerics and monastics suffered in the time of the atheist repression of religion in Russia. Uncounted millions of ordinary believers went to their deaths or were swallowed up in the maelstrom of the GULag. Many more suffered at the hands of the commissars, even if they didn’t go to the camps or find a untimely grave. We have no conception of what they went through, truly. They paid the price for faith. Have we?

Pavel Korin. A Portrait of Schema-Nun Famar. 1935

A Portrait of Schema-Nun Famar (Pavel Korin, 1935)

This study for A Farewell to Rus is an indictment of all of us. How many of us could preserve the composure and dignity that Mother Famar is showing in this painting under similar circumstances? I do daresay that not many of us could! This is a study in sainthood in colours. You could learn more from contemplating this painting than from reading a tall stack of dusty tomes.

This painting is a classic illustration of the truism that the Faith is not taught or read; rather, it is caught by being near the holy. There is no other way.

Pavel Korin. A Portrait of Metropolitan Sergei of Moscow. 1937

A Portrait of Metropolitan Sergei of Moscow (Pavel Korin, 1937)

This study for A Farewell to Rus is of one of the most controversial figures in Russian Church history. Patriarch Sergei Nikolaevich Stagorodsky (1877-1944) is vilified by many in the Russian emigration; he is execrated as a toady of the Soviets and a traitor to the Church. I believe that this reaction is overblown. In fact, he was imprisoned twice by the Reds, in 1921, and again in 1926-27. In short, he did pay a price for his confession of faith. In 1927, he issued a declaration in favour of the Soviet government, but, one has to view this in perspective. This was done only after he had suffered imprisonment, not once, but, twice. I wonder how many of his critics in the West paid such a toll?

He was desperately trying to save a remnant of the Church from the ravening and relentless atheist onslaught of the time. Indeed, that is why his hometown of Arzamas is erecting a memorial to his memory. In fact, one of the most prominent ROCOR bishops (I believe that it was Vitaly Maksimenko, but, I stand under correction in this) wrote that we should “honour the great podvig of Metropolitan Sergius”.

I say that any of us who did not face the ferocious situation that he did have no right to judge him. I know that there are those who shall not be satisfied until all the clergy of the MP kneel on shards of broken glass, beat themselves bloody with whips of barbed wire, and confess that the critics of Sergius in the West were not only completely in the right, but, that they are unfit human beings for having cooperated with the Soviets (Fr Alexander Lebedeff’s imagery in this is completely spot-on!). Such critics are completely off-base, and no decent Orthodox person should pay them any heed. I did not have my head in the lion’s jaws. I refuse to judge those who did. May God forgive all those who had to compromise in order to survive. They faced a terrible and implacable foe.

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