Should the icon be traditional? Of course it should be...Should the icon be modern? Undoubtedly. Corresponding to each significant time period of the past was a specific iconographic style and also a unique view of the icon. Such is only natural and cannot be otherwise, which is why an icon transplanted from a different era often looks like an imitation.
In my opinion, the question runs much deeper. It would be somewhat superficial to declare that an icon MUST be this or MUST NOT be that; it would be very hard indeed to say what an icon MUST really be. It is more practicable to look into what an icon actually IS.
Several years ago, a priest from Grodno came to order icons for the iconostasis from us. He generally gave iconographers a wide berth of artistic freedom, with just one stipulation: he wanted his icons painted “Rublev Style”. Such a preference is well known to iconographers. The phrase “Rublev Style” is a sort of magic buzzword uttered by many clients. With the Grodno priest, we agreed that I would pick several icons as models to guide me during my work. I then made the selection which included the 13th-century Hilandar Icon of the Saviour, the Byzantine fresco of the Saviour by Manuel Panselinos, the Icon of the Saviour from Vatopedi Monastery, and a few other photos of works which, like the ones I just mentioned, had nothing to do with Andrei Rublev but were highly expressive in terms of beauty and artistic vision. During my next meeting with the priest, I laid out the samples in front of him, and he replied with complete satisfaction “Yes! This is exactly what I had in mind”.
[Image: Icon of the Savior from Hilandar Monastery, 13th century]
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor