Meet Fra Angelico
October 5, 2016
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Fra Angelico was an early Renaissance painter. The lovely prose and introduction to Fra Angelico is from Will Durant’s, The Renaissance. (Simon and Schuster, 1953, pages 101-104). I particularly enjoyed the third paragraph.
Amid these exciting novelties Fra Angelico went quietly his own medieval way…His talent ripened quickly, and he had every prospect of making a comfortable place for himself in the world, but the love of peace and the hope of salvation led him to enter the Dominican order (1407)…[where] in happy obscurity, he illuminated manuscripts, and painted pictures for churches…he practiced religion with such modest devotion that his fellow friars called him the Angelic Brother–Fra Angelico. No one ever saw him angry or succeeded in offending him…
Painting, with [Fra Angelico], was a religious exercise as well as an aesthetic release and joy; he painted in much the same mood in which he prayed, and he never painted without praying first…His aim was not so much to create beauty as to inspire piety…In each of the half hundred cells the loving friar, aided by his friar pupils, found time to paint a fresco recalling some inspiring Gospel scene…
No painter except El Greco ever made a style so uniquely his own as Fra Angelico; even a novice can identify his hand. A simplicity of line and form going back to Giotto; a narrow but ethereal assemblage of colors–gold, vermilion, scarlet, blue, and green–reflecting a bright spirit and happy faith; figures perhaps too simply imaged, and almost without anatomy; faces beautiful and gentle, but too pale to be alive, too monotonously alike in monks, angels, and saints, conceived rather as flowers in paradise; and all redeemed by an ideal spirit of tender devotion, a purity of mood and thought recalling the finest moments of the Middle Ages, and never to be captured again by the Renaissance. He was the final cry of the medieval spirit in art.