Orthodox religious art takes some getting used to.
Here is a starting point: The icons are not an unsuccessful attempt to depict a realistic human face or figure. Their main function is not to be aesthetically beautiful (though many of them are). Orthodox iconography serves a very different purpose.
When the strict rules of religious art were codified back in the middle centuries, the majority of churchgoers were illiterate. The icons served as their picture guide to Christianity, depicting biblical stories and lessons on what is moral. Thus, they are full of symbols that are to be “read” by the churchgoers, though today they can only be interpreted by art historians and theologians.
What's more, it is estimated that a medieval man saw less images in the course of a lifetime than a modern man sees in the course of one day. The colorful icons covering the walls of the medieval churches must have had an overwhelming effect on the onlookers.
Everything from the color of the garments, the position of the hands and fingers, and the objects held has a distinctive significance and follows a strict set of rules.
The size of each figure, for example, represents its importance, thus rendering the representation of special depth unnecessary. The relative size of a facial part (most often unnaturally large eyes) represents the spiritual depth of the depicted saint. The halo is an unmistakable symbol of sainthood, and this is just the beginning.