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About Robert J. Andrews


Robert J. Andrews, now 96 years old, taught art education in public schools in Massachusetts for 38 years. After 18 years of teaching, he began his iconography career reviving Byzantine mosaic iconography in the United States.  During his 56-year career as an iconographer, he designed and installed mosaic icons at 43 sites including 38 churches across the United States and in London, England.  He has major work in 12 churches.  His works depict the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles and the Saints.  He works with smalti glass from Italy, using a palette of 5,000 colors.  Generally, each square foot of his mosaic contains approximately 400 pieces of thumb-nail sized glass.


His works cover the entryway to churches, church lobbies/narthexes, walls, domes, altars, apses (area behind/above altar), pillars, faces of the choir lofts, ceilings, hallways, floors, as well as the exteriors of churches.  His murals range from 6’ x 12’ to 9’ x 12’ to 9’ x 20’.  Individual icons range from 3’ x 7’ to 3’ x 9.’   His altar screens are made up of six to ten icons.

He has covered two churches entirely in iconography, one with over 8,000 sq. ft. of mosaics.  His largest work is a 60’ dome depicting the largest face of Christ in the world containing 3,400 square feet of mosaic.  His works in the apses of churches, the area behind the altar, range from 300 square feet up to 600 square feet.  

Robert J. Andrews

Andrews is co-authoring a book about his work that will be published early 2022.  This conversation introduces you to the man and his work.  He had remained rather anonymous as an artist, always putting the Glory of Christ and God ahead of his reputation and career as an iconographer.  There is a Greek Orthodox tradition of iconographers remaining rather anonymous.  At 96, he is discussing his accomplishments in a comprehensive work.

Robert J. Andrews

Artist Statement

Artist Statement

jb: Some have described iconography as raising the mind and soul to God, a glimpse into the spiritual world and those icons teach those who behold them.

RJA: I see icons expressing holiness; glory to God. Iconic figures are not represented as the living but in an ethereal way.

jb:  What was your first work?

RJA:  I drew a St. John the Baptist when I was 13 years old. After 18 years of public-school teaching, my first mosaic icon was for my home church, Annunciation, in Dover NH, and my career has lasted for 56 years.

jb:  Could I get an artist’s statement?

RJA: My statement is really a prayer.  Whenever I envision an icon or work on an icon, I first pray, “Help me celebrate your glory, Jesus, in my iconography.”

Robert J. Andrews Work

jb:  I understand you are an approved iconographer for the Greek Orthodox Church.

RJA:  I always follow the rules of the Greek Orthodox Church and am on the list of approved iconographers.   In 1970, Iakovos, the Archbishop of North and South America, made me an official iconographer.  Once that happened, commissions followed and I have been able to create and install works at over 38 churches. 


     In his letter, Archbishop Iakovos declared the large mosaic of the Resurrection at Holy Trinity in San Francisco as “one of the finest examples of art we have in any of our Churches in the Western Hemisphere.”

jb: What places have the most extensive work by you?

RJA: I have done extensive work at Holy Trinity San Francisco [HTSF], Transfiguration Church in Lowell MA, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Rochester, NY, and St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton, CA.  There are over 100 icons in Holy Trinity San Francisco and the face of Christ has to be my greatest work.

jb: What does your studio look like?  Do you have samples of 5,000 different colors?

RJA:  My studio is attached to my residence with a long connecting walkway.  The studio had been a barn. 

I do a 2’ x 6’ painting of the icon. After finishing the painting, I select from samples of glass I have in the studio and create a 12” x 12” sample of the colors I want used in the icon.  There are approximately 400 pieces in each square foot of icon.  For example, when desiring a blue color, I will use different shades of blue and will generally mix 3 shades together.  With regard to gold, I have 7 shades of gold and might mix in some ivory to get an expansive look.  I use solid gold for the halos.  I have saved many of the original paintings used to create the mosaics and have them hung in my living room and bedroom.

jb:  That means there are approximately 10,000 individual pieces in a 3’ x 8’ foot icon.

RJA:  That is correct!

Jb: Where did you get your training in iconography?

RJA:  I had no formal training.  I studied byzantine mosaic iconography on my own, doing research at the Boston Public Library, Harvard University libraries and Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, MA.  

Bishop Letter to Robert J. Andrews
Bishop Letter to Robert J. Andrews

Fun Facts

Fun Facts

jb:  I heard that you have entered the Virgin Galaticia sweepstakes to win a free trip into outer space.  What makes you want to go into space?

RJA: I am a former fighter pilot.  I served in World War II as a Navy cadet in Pensacola, Fla.  For a pilot, going into space is the ultimate goal.

jb: What was your reaction to Wally Funk as the oldest person to go into space?

RJA:  I would like it to be me as the oldest person. 

jb:  In the video about Holy Trinity San Francisco, you mention that both you and Father Anthony both loved ice cream.  What is your favorite flavor?

RJA: Butter pecan and chocolate walnut.  My father owned an ice cream shop and I helped him make 2-1/2 gallon batches of ice cream.


jb:  Tell me a bit about your family.

RJA:  My wife Ann (Antiopie) who passed in 2017 was the backbone and the joy of the family!  Ann and I had three children, John Jay, Alexis and Timothy. John Jay has since passed. Alexis works in stained glass and other medium [also editing the book] and Tim, who works in the construction trade. I have two grandchildren from Alexis, Eve and Luke, and then then their children, my great grandchildren, Melanie, Zachary and Keaton, all exhibiting creative talents.   Tim has helped me out with the installations at Holy Trinity in San Francisco and Stockton and peeled all the papers from the dome of Christ in San Francisco.

Teaching Career

jb:  In addition to doing iconography all over the country, you taught public school.  What a transition, from Navy fighter pilot to art teacher.


RJA:  My goal was to become an art teacher.

I started out as an elementary school teacher and was the first male teacher in the school.  Students were not used to a man teaching.  Students would stand up and cheer.  

I taught at Sciuate, Plymouth, Silver Lake Regional, Sudbury Regional High School.  I then went to Newton South High School.  I taught there for 22 years, teaching clay, metal fiber, pottery, jewelry-making and weaving.   I was head of the Art Department for many years.  The school was very generous and let me take leaves to install icons. At end of my teaching career, eleven students went on art school.  

While at Silver Lake High School, my colleague and best friend, John Killiea, was a coach who later went on to become an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics.  He would always give us floor seats for home games.  We were friends with the head of the High School Construction Department and when he got a commission to build a house on Martha’s Vineyard, the three or us worked together one summer building the home.

jb:  The December 15, 1971, edition of the Lowell Sun talks about the “Year of the Greek” at the local high school.  

RJA:  The school had a “Year of the Greek” and went on an 8-day trip to Greece.  I was a chaperone.  The students raised money for the American Farm School in Salonika, Greece. During the school year, I taught my students one Greek word every day and we also taught the kids Greek dancing.

I also taught at the Massachusetts College of Art for several years.  I have a B.S. in Education and a Masters in Arts Education. They wanted me to get a doctorate to teach full-time but I didn’t have time to do that.

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