Learn about Fra Angelico in Art History, View His Art and Famous Paintings


"St Lawrence before Valerianus” Fra Angelico, 1447-1449

Fra Angelico, 1387-1455, ones of Italy’s famous artists in art history was probably influenced by Leonbattissta and his writings about scientific art perspective. He was successful placing figures in correct size relationships to receding landscapes. Although he was aware of Masaccio's method of perspective, he did not use chiaroscuro in his later paintings. Angelico’s early figures were much like Giotto, heavy, little articulation in their clothing and rich in their pastel-like bright colors.

One of Fra Angelico's famous paintings, "Descent From the Cross", 1434, represented a naturalism that few artists could achieve at the time of this painting. Title: Angelico placed figures across a frontal plane in his landscapes much as Masaccio did. He then leads us into the background of the artwork with a winding road leading to Jerusalem.

Angelico uses the three divisions of the gothic picture frame to structure a three dimensional landscape and figure groupings. The city of Jerusalem is in the first division. The second central division has the descent from the cross and the figure group Joseph, Mary Magdalene Nicodemus, and John. The third division has a deep landscape view possibly using a one-point art perspective following the lines of the mountains and the walls of Jerusalem behind the figure of Jesus Christ. There is no longer a flat solid wall of color at the end of his landscapes, but an entire atmospheric landscape.

Another of Angelico's famous paintings is the "Annunciation", painted in 1438. Title: Again as in the "Descent" He divides the painting into thirds. The first third is the left garden representing the virginity of Mary. The second third, is the portico the angel Gabriel has just entered and the last one-third, Mary sits and awaits news about her destiny from the angel Gabriel.

Fra Angelico abandoned the heavy dramatic emotional figures of Masaccio and Giotto replacing them with delicate and more articulated figures. The angel has articulated wings, with an intricate patterened dress and Mary has a brocaded halo. The bright light and dark shadows of Masaccio are gone replaced with a softer smooth transition from light to dark.

In yet another of Angelico's famous paintings in art history"Saint Lawrence Distributing the Treasures of the Church", 1447-1450, he uses his system of scientific perspective as the base for painting figures existing inside architectural structures. Title: His figures are more volumetric, real to life, and well articulated in space.

Fra Angelico’s figures are again placed across the frontal picture plane as Masaccio. He achieves the effect of grandeur by placing the figures in perfect three-dimensional relationship in front of the regimented, receding columns. Saint Martin is wearing a dalmatic decorated with flames referring to the fire of his martyrdom. Other famous artists of the Gothic period in art history are Simone Martini and Pierro dalla Francesca.

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