From September 23 to to January 9, 2011 – Musée Jacquemart-André
The Jacquemart-André Museum is the first French museum to pay tribute to Fra Angelico and reconsider this exceptional artist’s career. The exhibition will present nearly 25 major works by Fra Angelico and a similar number of panels painted by some of his prestigious contemporaries, such as Lorenzo Monaco, Masolino, Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Zanobi Strozzi.
Fra Angelico (1387-1455) was a major player in Florence’s artistic and cultural revolution at the beginning of the 15th century. His work combines the golden lustre inherited from Gothic style with a new understanding of perspective. He initiated the artistic movement which specialists have named the “Peintres de la Lumière” (painters of light).
Alongside his works will be hung those of renowned painters who significantly influenced his work, such as his teacher Lorenzo Monaco (1370-1424), Masolino (1383-c. 1440) and Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), as well as artists that he inspired, such as Filippo Lippi (1406-1469) and Zanobi Strozzi (1412-1468).
Fra Angelico was an artist of many talents, and he produced masterpieces on a diverse range of materials. Although he is best known for the frescos which decorate the San Marco monastery in Florence, he was just as accomplished in the delicate arts of illumination and painting on wood, as the exhibition will show.
Panels and richly ornate works such as the Last Judgement triptych (from the Corsini Gallery in Rome), La Madone di Cedri (San Matteo National Museum, Pisa) and one of the panels from L’armadio degli argenti, (San Marco Museum, Florence) will be displayed at the Jacquemart-Andre Museum. These works demonstrate Fra Angelico’s love of elegant, contrasting colours. The subtle tones he chooses enhance the elegant figures he depicts from Biblical episodes or the lives of the saints.
A video shown at the entrance to the exhibition will allow visitors to view his finest work – the frescos adorning the cells of the San Marco monastery in Florence.
Fra Angelico was a pupil of Lorenzo Monaco and, like him, a monk. He learned his art in Florence, a city saturated with the International Gothic style. This refined style, which combined influences from Northern Europe and Italy, inspired Fra Angelico to create works with deep spiritual meaning.
Fra Angelico’s choice of subjects conformed to the religious pictorial tradition, but he reinterpreted these subjects throughout his career. For example, his many variations on the theme of the Humble Virgin demonstrate his ability to integrate daring stylistic innovations promoted by supporters of the new artistic movement. He was fully aware of the innovations of the Masters of his time, such as Masolino and Uccello, whose work featured a more realistic representation of the world with a focus on the human figure and a new mastery of the rules of perspective.
Although Fra Angelico adopted these new ideas into his work, he stayed faithful to the principles of medieval religious paintings: his works retained a didactic function, strengthened by the mystical force he attributes to light. At the heart of the first Florentine Renaissance, which marked a turning point in European art, Fra Angelico had an important and unique place, thanks to his “rare and perfect talent” (Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists).