Friday, March 18, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Fra Angelico

In 1982, the artist Fra Angelico was beautified by Pope John Paul II, and was declared a patron saint of artists. So, as one might suspect, Angelico must have been an important person.

He was born in 1395, and around the age of 23 he entered a Dominican convent in his hometown of Fiesole and became a friar and illuminator of religious texts. He also began painting altarpieces for the church. He was renown for his painting of religious subjects, and was referred to in his lifetime and after as "Il Beato Angelico," or "the Blessed Angelico." Angelico was his nickname over the years, as he was born Guido di Pietro, and later on became known as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, or "Brother John from Fiesole."

Later on in 1436, Angelico painted for the convent of San Marco in Florence, where some of his greatest work was accomplished. His style had matured greatly, and his use of shadow gave the figures in his paintings a life-like appearance, particularly in his painting of the Transfiguration, and in figures of the Altarpiece for San Marco. For the time, paintings like these were just beginning to emerge, and Angelico was among few other artists such as Giotto and Masaccio to take part in this new movement of painting referred to by Vasari as the Renaissance. These paintings combined the style of the Byzantine icons with a new way of depicting realism in painting with use of shadow and 3-dimensionality that made the picture come to life.

Angelico died in Rome in 1455, and his tomb still exists at the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. In addition to his expert handling of paint, he lived a life of piety, and lived his life according to the Gospel, and according to his Dominican order to love the poor. He considered his works as divinely inspired. In looking at the reverent manner in which he painted his figures, it is safe to say that they were indeed.

Fra Angelico
Annunciation (Convento di San Marco, Florence)
230 x 321 cm.

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