More Stories {Why I love Fra Angelico}


Went with my son to Micro Center yesterday and bought a new pc. So this is my first blog written on this new machine. I was thinking about the Italian painter Fra Angelico whom I have always loved . In particular I was remembering a grant proposal I made to copy one of his famous altarpieces in my own figurative style. I did eventually do some compositions inspired by his altar pieces in the 1980's which were successful to some extent although I doubt whether anyone would see the influence of Angelico. I liked the readymade compositions and cast of characters in these paintings. I think my proposal to the Guggenheim Foundation was to make a version of Fra Angelico's deposition. This is the scene in the story of the crucifixion where Christ is lowered from the cross to the group of figures at it's base including his mother and St. John (the youngest disciple and the author of the Apocalypse). Anyway it was an absurb idea which seemed to be the sort of proposals I was making to various grant organizations in those days.

 Now I realize my instincts were correct but my ideas were a bit out of sync with the times. It was the color and images (really characters in these paintings that especially fascinated me) . The time in painting was when character in the portraits begins to be very human, very like what you see even today in a line at the supermarket or at a cinema. People in Fra Angelico look like real individuals not just Gothic cookie cutter images as in many earler altar pieces. As well the color is so brilliant and pretty yes pretty like it's always a nice day, a spring day even. The color is very much used for decorative effects but also as a means to move the eye around the painting. And such beautiful colors and combinations . I was especially taken with his use of pink and gold together to create this other worldly effect of lightness and sparkle. His color was a very powerful element in my understanding of color as a means to putting a painting in motion, making a still picture seem animated. The blues and reds in his paintings also set one another off creating light and effects that give symbolic importance to the figures in the compositions. And this is all in the context of a naturalism in the figures that arises from very careful observations of faces and gestures by the artist. And it must be also said that Angelico does get some effects that are the sum total of all the various aspects of his manner. A lightness and spirituality pervade these works that arises from the artists love of painting. As well Fra Angelico is an exquisite story teller. His paintings tell shared stories that an illiterate audience can appreciate even without words. My personal misgivings about religious art seem to fade away in the presence of Angelico's mastery. These paintings give us pleasure whether we are believers or not, the pleasure arises from the sheer beauty of the art.