Leonid Ouspensky, from his apartment/studio in Paris taught many young artists and created some of the finest iconography and iconographers of the 20th century. Recently, one of his pupils, Joris (George) Van Ael, came to my attention. Van Ael’s style is strongly reminiscent of others of the Ouspensky school like Fr. Patrick Doolan and Matushka Anne Margitich. These and other disciples of Ouspenky are among the very best iconographers of our times. What makes Van Ael stand out among this group is his application of his talents and training in a unique way.
Most interesting among Van Ael’s portfolio are his liturgical implements – tabernacles, altar crosses, and Gospel Covers – designed for Roman Catholic use. These are beautiful additions to the liturgical life of the monasteries and parishes in which they now reside. Moreover, by form and function, they hearken back to medieval Europe’s finest Romanesque and Gothic liturgical art. But with their “Russian” iconographic depictions, these are a deviation away from western precedents, a twist on an old theme and the start of something new.