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Explore the extent to which Fra' Angelico's work engages with new issues in pictorial representation. How can he be seen to develop his own aesthetic sensibility?

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Introduction

Explore the extent to which Fra' Angelico's work engages with new issues in pictorial representation. How can he be seen to develop his own aesthetic sensibility? Fra' Angelico is best known for his artistic innovations in style, building on the earlier work of Masaccio and Masolino to create an aesthetic sensibility that reflected the importance of beauty and wealth of material in art, and in particular religious art. His contributions to the development of the 'sacra conversazione', and to the merits of a naturalistic composition are notable, but most importantly, his ability to paint creations full of ethereal light without resorting to the heavy black lines of contemporaries such as Fra' Filippo Lippi. His life was mostly confined to the monasteries of Florence, and the spiritual intensity of his paintings led Guido di Pietro di Gino to be known as the "Angel painter". The bulk of his work was done for monasteries and churches, and thus he was mostly able to operate outside the stringent demands of wealthy and important patrons, only receiving commissions for his most opulent works, and always keeping a religious subject as the central concern of the work. ...read more.

Middle

The new architectural features of quattrocentro Florence, with humanist reversions to the Classical forms, are interpreted in this painting by having a conch-shaped scalloped niche above the head of the Virgin, and new pink and green Classical arches which crown the saints around the throne of the Virgin. Angelico has approached this innovation with some trepidation, keeping the background between the saints in the archetypal gold "wallpaper" backing, replete with very detailed sgrafito, showing his unwillingness to dispose of the older values all together. The other central innovation of this painting is the clear recession of space, with the first two saints standing on ground in front of the floor of the Virgin's throne, and other saints situated behind others. The lack, however, of a vanishing-point perspective shows that there were greater developments to come later in his work. The greatest example of how Fra' Angelico adapted to new concepts about pictorial representation can be seen in the 1440 San Marco altarpiece, in which the painter experiments with the concepts of true perspective and the contrast between flatness and depth within his work. ...read more.

Conclusion

and perspective - one of the ways this can be explained by art historians is that he re-discovered the qualities of transparent green earth, and used it to indicate areas of darkness and light in a subtle way. The use of highly Classical motifs, such as pillars with capitals, and the slightly awkward recession of space all show how these new concepts were being experimented with and would be developed later at San Marco. From the examples I have looked at, which do not cover in any way the large number of paintings and frescoes completed in Fra' Angelico's lifetime, it is possible to see a very definite trend in his work - from the earliest undecided attempts to create more naturalistic figures within a Classical surrounding, abandoning the older precepts of the international Gothic to the highly modelled "sacra conversazione" with clear recession of space and the square 'pala' frame. Through his understanding of materials such as green earth, and the lack of darkness in his paintings, it is clear that he develops his own unique aesthetic sensibility replete with ornate motifs and lush symbolic gardens. ?? ?? ?? ?? I Francesca Lewis VIIIJM ...read more.

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