Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fra Angelico

St. Peter preaches, while St. Mark writes his Gospel
Tempera on panel
39 x 56 cm
Museo di San Marco, Florence, Italy

Saint Pierre preaching in a hexagonal pulpit while Saint Mark is shown seated in profile to left, puts his words written with the assistance of an acolyte.

Fra Angelico (c.1395-1455) was a Florentine painter, a Dominican friar described as having "a rare and perfect talent". Although in popular tradition he has been seen as 'not an artist properly so-called but an inspired saint', (Ruskin), Angelico was in fact a highly professional artist, who was in touch with the most advanced developments in contemporary Florentine art and in later life traveled extensively for prestigious commissions. The name Fra Angelico means "Angelic Brother." His art stands as an important link between the first and later generations of Renaissance painting in Florence.

Angelico entered a Dominican convent in Fiesole in 1418 and became a friar.
Although his teacher is unknown, he apparently began his career as an illuminator of missals and other religious books. He began to paint altarpieces and other panels. In 1436 some of the Dominican friars of Fiesole moved to the convent of San Marco in Florence. Angelico  painted many frescoes for the cloister, chapter house, and entrances to the 20 cells on the upper corridors.  In 1445 he was summoned to Rome by Pope Eugenius IV to paint frescoes for the now destroyed Chapel of the Sacrament in the Vatican.

Angelico had considerable influence on Italian painting. he combined the influence of the elegantly decorative International Gothic style with the more realistic style of such Renaissance masters as the painter Masaccio. He was also aware of the theories of perspective. His representation of devout facial expressions and his use of color to heighten emotion are particularly effective. His skill in creating monumental figures, representing motion, and suggesting deep space through the use of linear perspective, especially in the Roman frescoes, mark him as one of the foremost painters of the Renaissance. He painted numerous altarpieces as well as frescos, several outstanding examples being in the S. Marco museum. His particular grace and sweetness stimulated the school of Perugia, and Fra Bartolommeo, who followed him into S. Marco in 1500, had something of his restraint and grandeur.
Angelico died in Rome and was buried in the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva, where his tombstone still exists. He has long been called 'Beato Angelico' (the Blessed Angelico). In 1982 Pope John Paul II conferred beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life.