Dionysius the Wise – icon painter
Dionysius was one of the last Medieval Old Masters of Russian art.
According to some sources the artist was born in the 1440s.
Dionysius experimented with balance and composition. His earliest recorded works were the wall-paintings in the church of the Parfuntiev Monastery at Borovsk. He was employed there as assistant to the painter Mitrofan.
The artist was called to Moscow by John III and became the leading figure of the early Moscow school of painting at the end of the 15th century. He painted a series of icons for the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin.
His style was named Muscovite Mannerism and was characterized by his mastery of colour in painting. He was not fond of bright colours; he toned down his palette a little, making the colours lighter. The transparency of the colours help to underline the lightness of the architectural forms.
The artist had an even greater impact upon contemporary Russian artists than his predecessor Andrei Rublev.
Only one of his early icons—Holy Virgin (Hodegitria) from the Monastery of the Ascension (1482) — has been preserved. There are two more icons by Dionysius in the Tretyakov Gallery — Our Saviour in His Might and Crucifixion (1500). Crucifixion is similar in style to the frescos in the Church of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin in the Ferapont Monastery, which are among the most remarkable art treasures of Ancient Rus.
The artist liked complex, many-figured scenes with the figures depicted in such a way as to appear especially light and elegant, with natural movements, and even his servant-girls and mendicants have a regal bearing.
Apart from the mural decorations, Dionysius and his sons also painted an iconostasis for the church. The icons are now in the museum of the town of Belozersk, the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum in Leningrad.
His death is presumed to have occurred in 1505. In 1508 the painters’ workshop was headed by his son.