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Fra Angelico – A Pious Renaissance Artist

By admin | Sunday, April 25th, 2010 | Watercolor

A prominent Renaissance Florentine painter Fra Angelico (1387-1455) was a highly professional and skilled artist. His style was a perfect blend of decorative Gothic style and realistic Renaissance Art. His impressive, life-like monumental paintings and frescoes have marked him as an artist with a peculiar pious mysticism in his work.

Angelico was born near Castello di Vicchio in the province of Mugello, Tuscany. Not much is known about his parents and his early life. In 1408, he painted frescoes in the Dominican convent of Cortona as an assistant artist. In 1418, he joined a Dominican convent in Fiesole as Guido di Pietro. In few years, he became a friar using the name Fra Giovanni da Fiesole. His career in Fiesole began as an illuminator of missals and other religious books, working in collaboration with his Dominican brother Fra Benedetto. His art gained recognition and he soon began to paint altarpieces and other panels for the church. Among his famous early works are ‘Madonna of the Star’ (1433), ‘Christ in Glory Surrounded by Saints and Angels.’ The distinct influence of the Sienese school of painting in his work hint that he may have been trained under Gherardo, Starnina, or Lorenzo Monaco.

In 1936, Fra Angelico moved to convent of San Marco, in Florence, where he played key role in decorating the monastery of Cosimo de Medici. His marvelous paintings in Chapter House fresco and St. Marco’s altarpiece from this period established him as an artistic genius of religious themes. The most notable works of this genre are ‘Crucifixion’ series, ‘The Annunciation’ series, and ‘The Adoration of the Magi.’

In 1445, Fra Angelico moved to Rome to paint frescoes of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament at St. Peter’s on Pope Eugenius IV request. Along with this pupil, Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497), Zanobi Strozzi, and others, Fra Angelico continued his artwork at cathedrals in Orvieto, Vatican, Fiesole, Rome, and the other parts of Italy. Few of his famous work from this period are ‘Christ in Glory,’ ‘The Virgin Mary,’ ‘The Four Evangelist,’ and others. He died at a Dominican convent in Rome in 1455 and was buried in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. His tomb still exists there. After his demise, his art style continues to have a significant influence on Italian paintings primarily through his pupil Benozzo Gozzoli. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1982, and later declared a patron of Catholic artist in 1984.

Fra Angelico was a master in depicting emotions, evoked by the contemplation of heavenly mysteries, on the faces of monks and his other subjects. Through his extraordinary divine paintings, he expressed his reverence for his subjects and his love for humanity as a perfect holy artist.

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