The series that we have been doing on contemporary liturgical artists has given us a window into a new world. We had no idea of the vibrant activity in ancient religious art forms, especially iconography. The latest discovery is Tatiana Romanova-Grant, a specialist in the ancient Byzantine, European and Russian art forms. She creates icons, miniatures, frescoes, and eggs using techniques developed since the 12th century. A master iconographer, Tatiana Romanova-Grant’s work is found throughout the world in churches and private collections. She uses traditional materials, such as 24k gold leaf, for backgrounds and gold line graphics.
Tatiana Romanova-Grant was born and raised by a family of scientists in Moscow. She studied at the Moscow Institute of Fine and Applied Arts ”Stroganovskoe” and graduated from the Moscow Krupskaya Pedagogical Institute. She was a very active member of the Moscow artistic community, and was quite successful as an artist. For several years she worked as an artist-scenographer at the Moscow Mayakovsky Academical Theatre and several independent drama and musical theatres in Moscow, creating staging and costume designs. During this time period she also was very active in cinema, scenography, and advertising, and worked as an illustrator for various publishing houses in Moscow. She was a designer for the Drama Studios of Moscow Central TV, and also taught art and language.
In 1974 she began to study the restoration of ancient art, working with the masters at the Grabar Restoration Center in saving and bringing to life icons from the 13th to 18th century. She also began restoring tempera icons and frescoes for the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as individual collectors. Her restoration work led to painting new icons, and she learned from masters in monasteries as well as her study of ancient church writings. “I have always been a believer. It so happened that I was working on a team doing restoration of old icons, paintings, and frescoes. There were lots of things that needed painting, sometimes fragments, and sometimes whole paintings. The Metropolitan saw my work and pushed me to paint the icons for the church.”
While working in Moscow, she met her future husband, George Grant,an American. “It’s a long romantic story. I met him in Moscow, he appeared in my studio, he was interested in my work. He was an English professor at the University and knew Russian culture very well. He wrote me letters and eventually we married and moved here to America.”
Since 1989 Tatiana Romanova-Grant has been working out of San Francisco and Santa Cruz, California. She currently has a small studio in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Icon painting is a mature art based on a profound understanding of the past but is, too, a complex art difficult to capture in words since everything in it is expressed iconographically, in symbol, in artistic forms that invariably have a specific inner meaning. To be understood, the artist as well as the viewer needs a special understanding of linear design, composition, space, color, and light that have evolved over centuries. Tatiana Grant’s art, distinguished by the finesse of its technique, bears the imprint of that traditional royal splendor. But even as she follows the traditions of the canon, she gives new meanings, new interpretations, to themes through subtle deviations. This is the art of nuance and it is central to being a great master.
When asked for the guiding principals of her liturgical art, Tatiana replied, “It is the most valuable thing that I can do, the most valuable work that I can leave after myself, work which expresses God’s love.” In each of her works Tatiana strives to create a profound sense of supremacy of the mystery of life. They are “windows into eternity”.
The excellent photography of Romanova-Grant’s work deserves commendation as well. Richard Otte, who resides in Felton, California (outside of Santa Cruz) is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Santa Cruz and is interested in topics involving philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, epistemology, philosophical logic, and metaphysics.
Romonova-Grant’s work has been commissioned by collectors and churches throughout Russia, France, England, South America, Asia, and the United States. More of her work can be seen on the website Spiritual Painting.