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Images from the Fra Angelico show at the Met

Post #721 • February 1, 2006, 12:47 PM • 33 Comments

I wanted to write about this. But, you know, Taiwan, etc. This was a beautiful show. Everything I say on top of that would just be so much icing. Images courtesy the Met.

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), The Crucifixion, ca.1420, Tempera on panel, 25-1/4 x 19-1/4 in., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943 (43.98.5)

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), Virgin and Child, with Five Angels, ca. 1426/27, Tempera on panel, Overall, 38-7/8 x 18-1/4 in., picture surface 37-3/8 x 18-1/4 in., Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, Collection Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Photo: Thyssen Bornemisza Collection, on deposit in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), Virgin and Child with Four Angels, ca. 1427, Tempera on panel, 6-3/8 x 3-7/8 in., The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, Photo: Copyright 1980 The Detroit Institute of Arts

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), The Vision of the Dominican Habit, ca. 1427, Tempera on panel, 9-5/8 x 12-3/4 in., The National Gallery, London, United Kingdom, Photo: Copyright National Gallery, London

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), Virgin Annunciate, ca. 1427, Tempera on panel, 12-5/8 x 7-1/2 in., Staatsgemälde Sammlungen, Munich, Germany, Photo: Bayer & Mitko, Artothek

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), Saint Francis's Trial by Fire before the Sultan, ca. 1428-29, Tempera on panel, 10-7/8 x 12-3/8 in. Lindenau Museum, Altenburg, Germany, Photo: Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), The Apostle Saint James the Great Freeing the Magician Hermogenes, ca. 1429-30, Tempera and gold on panel, Overall, 10 x 8-7/8 in.; picture surface 10 x 8-5/8 in., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Photo: Copyright Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), Saint Nicholas Calms a Tempest at Sea; The Miracle of the Ration of Grain, ca. 1437, Tempera on panel, 13-3/4 x 24-1/4 in., Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City, Photo: Vatican Museums, Vatican City

Fra Angelico (Italian, ca. 1390/95-1455), The Last Judgment: Paradise, ca. 1435-40, Tempera on panel, 40-1/2 x 11-1/8 in., Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany, Photo: Jörg P. Anders / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie

Comment

1.

George

February 1, 2006, 2:51 PM

That last one is the painting I mentioned in my earlier comment.

The painting "Saint Nicholas Calms a Tempest at Sea" was also another favorite. (the Met also gave some accredidation to one of his assistants) It borderes on being surrealistic. The composition is strongly geometric, based on a grid made by vertically dividing the canvas by 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and the diagonals

2.

cohen

February 1, 2006, 9:43 PM

i my god ,,, how boring

3.

Franklin

February 1, 2006, 10:18 PM

Cohen, let me get your feedback on something. I'd like this conversation to scale up a bit, and I think one of the reasons it doesn't is because of the possibility, nay, probability that that someone can come by and post inane content that doesn't advance the conversation ("If your entire thesis is an eleven-word insult, save it," say the guidelines, applying to also to lower numbers of words, badly punctuated and otherwise). So I'm thinking to give readers a choice, each time they want to say something, between logging in as registered users and having their comments appear immediately, or commenting anonymously in exchange having their comments moderated according to the guidelines. What do you think? I'm in a revisionist mood, you see.

It sure would have helped when those spammers came by the other day and hit me something like a dozen times in as many hours.

4.

Marc Counrty

February 1, 2006, 11:14 PM

What would be involved in "registering"?... As long as you don't have to re-register over and over again, I think I'd be game.

5.

Marc Country

February 1, 2006, 11:15 PM

... and as long as I didn't get stuck registering a name with a typo in it...

6.

George

February 1, 2006, 11:24 PM

I suppose if one isn't interested in painting one might say it was boring. I also suppose if one isn't interested the history of art one might say it was boring.

re number two:

For what it iw worth, I happen to live in NYC and this show generated a lot of buzz among both painters and those who work in other media. To make it more interesting, the Fra Angelico show ran concurrently with the Van Gogh drawing show and with the Rauschenberg combines, giving one a chance to view all three painters in the course of an afternoon. Surprisingly a number of younger artists commented on how great they thought the Fra Angelico paintings were in comparison. I suspect that many younger artists just take in the 'look' of the paintings but once they gave up their prejudice against what is admittedly "old fashioned religious imagery" and really looked, they came away impressed.

If you are a painter, there is a lot to be learned from Fra Angelico's paintings. Much of what makes these works so resonate is not immediately apparent, yes the color is bright and clear but the works are created with an entirely modern, almost abstract spirit but you have to be willing to look without prejudice.

I thought that if one is painter there is something which can be assimilated from these works for oneself. Something rooted deep in history, not particularly current and something which one will have to make ones own in order to use it today. Of course, you can just look at ArtWizard and copy whatever the latest fad is and hope for the best.

Of course if you don't care about painting you would be just as well off looking at porn.

7.

Franklin

February 2, 2006, 12:05 AM

Marc, once logged in, you'd stay logged in. Basically, registered comments would be correlated to real e-mail addresses. This isn't imminent; I still have to get the comment form to open in the same window and under the new style.

George, that's a good analysis.

8.

oldpro

February 2, 2006, 6:48 AM

Yes, George, interesting that you get that reaction from other painters. There is something "modern" about Fra Angelico, maybe not the kind of modern I might go for, but modern nontheless. The painters might be responding to that as much as to the sheer quality of the pictures. And there is certainly somethin tired at this point about the Rauschenberg combines, given that they were always pretty much middling as art anyway.

Franklin, I am going to put in once again against registration. Those shoe ads, or whatever they were, were grim, to be sure, but a juvenile remark like Cohen's above is just not a problem. I think people should be free to make them, within the limits of your broad and sensible guidlines. I feel that registration would be chilling.

9.

beWare

February 2, 2006, 6:52 AM

Yes. Calling these images boring obviously shows ignorance, an ignorance that will as well, not allow one to understand why it is ignorant in the first place.

They resonant, they are clear, sharp and without pretense. The formal design of each picture is magnificent and grand.

I'm glad they exist !

10.

George

February 2, 2006, 9:05 AM

Looking at the bottom illustration, "The Last Judgment: Paradise" The jpeg doesn't come close to what the painting actually looks like, you get the "look" but the details are blurred beyond recognition.

The painting is a difficult size 40.5 x 11 inches or 3.6 to 1 height to width ratio. Tall and skinny might not be so bad for an abstract painting or one with just a single image but "Paradise" has 32 figures in it, not a trivial feat of composition.

On one of my visits to this exhibition I was talking with a couple from Philadelphia about the composition, about how geometrically structured it looked. Yesterday, still curious about this, I took a closer look and made a diagram of the composition.

The diagram has three views:
Left: The panels height is divided by 1/2 and 1/4 with diagonals from the corners to the middle

Mid: The cyan lines are the 1/3-2/6 divisions and the diagonals with the blue lines the 1/5 divisions.

Right: The yellow lines are squares with the height equal to the panels width. The arcs are the method used to geometrically construct the golden section (1.618)

11.

oldpro

February 2, 2006, 9:13 AM

I would assume that this was a panel from a larger work that had to fit somewhere, right? That would account for the shape.

12.

George

February 2, 2006, 9:19 AM

Re#8. Oldpro said interesting that you get that reaction from other painters.

I don't find it particularily suprising, currently there is a lot of imagistic painting being made which accounts for part of the interest. Also, I suspect a lot of younger artists have a fairly thin background in art history, 600 year old paintings don't show up in the glossy magazines every month and I think the younger painters are really looking for solutions.

13.

George

February 2, 2006, 9:24 AM

re #11 I would assume that this was a panel from a larger work that had to fit somewhere, right? That would account for the shape.

Yes, Jack would probably know about all that. It's a whole heaven to hell cycle I think. For me I'm less concerned with contextual aspects of the work, the iconography etc, as it's not really relevant to me, so I just looked at what was there, a tall skinny painting.

I would observe that some of the works I like best are little "out of the way" panels that filled in a corner or had the donors or the brothers in them. I would suspect he had more leway with those compared to the central or flanking panels.

14.

Jack

February 2, 2006, 10:48 AM

I suspect a lot of younger artists have a fairly thin background in art history

Uh, yes, and it's not exactly to their credit. In fact, it's absolutely disgraceful, not to mention stupid, but I'm just being authoritarian, so they can all rationalize me away. The same, of course, applies to anybody who claims to be serious about art.

15.

oldpro

February 2, 2006, 11:10 AM

You're right George, these compositions are radical. Too bad we don't have pix of all of them. That one you mentioned with all the Monks in black robes is another dynamite picture.

I suppose the younger painters are "looking for solutions" and can find some here. At least I hope so. Most of them don't know art from 50 years ago, much less 600.

16.

Kathleen

February 2, 2006, 11:17 AM

I suspect that younger artists have a better background in art history than you lot are giving them credit for.

17.

George

February 2, 2006, 11:29 AM

I agree with Kathleen's remark. At the start, you can just assimilate so much so you look at what you like, what your teachers like, or what's "hot" Regardless, you can only take in so much before you overload. I also think that the serious younfer artists are plugged in and keeping up with what is going on. It's done electronically now, and they share their opinions vocally (blogwise), everyone has an opinion which is how it should be.

18.

oldpro

February 2, 2006, 12:17 PM

"us lot" are dealing with students from freshman to graduate level every day, Kathleen. Believe me, as Manuel from Fawlty Towers would say, they don't know naawthing.

Of course they are "plugged in" George. They know what happened yesterday. They just don't know what happened 10, 20 50, 100 years ago. When I was learning my trade I stayed up all night reading art books
clipping things our of magazines and running to NY every weekend to see what was up. "Overload" is no excuse. You cannot make art in a vacuum.

19.

George

February 2, 2006, 12:44 PM

#18, sounds like when I was a kid I had to walk 5 miles to school.

Maybe down there in Miami, but I think here in the city the kids are looking harder than you suggest. How far back they look is a matter for conjecture but I'm not sure how much that matters as long as a young artist can find a few good historical models to learn from. It spreads out from there, they don't need to know everything, sometimes 'just enough' is better than a 'whole bunch' What people look at seems to run in cycles, today Alex Katz is very visible, why? Not sure, it's a simple style that looks achievable but doesn't do much for me, still... 'he's timless'.

20.

Jack

February 2, 2006, 12:54 PM

George, you tempt me, but I'm not going to bite on Alex Katz. There's not enough there there.

21.

George

February 2, 2006, 1:02 PM

Jack... a translation

me: --> but doesn't do much for me -->(as in, his work falls flat for me)

kids remark:--> still... 'he's timless'

22.

mek

February 2, 2006, 1:05 PM

Just piping in here: yes the city "kids" are far more involved and well versed than the "kids" here, for various reasons, many of them geographical, the quality of faculty provided, and/or proximity to world-class museums. but you really cannot make sweeping assumptions oldpro about today's youth. one can love fra and love nam june paik all in the same sentence. one can know their schtuff about art history, and still rave about jessica stockholder. oh bla, why bother to explain this. back to my package design. i have 30+ skus (items) to design and release in the next 10 days, and will be tied up with photoshoots in between. i am glad for artblog(franklin) for mental exercise and Fra for aesthetic pleasure. love the fra! miss the met terribly.

23.

oldpro

February 2, 2006, 1:17 PM

Kids in NY have NY, and that is an advantage. I am not hesitant aboiut "making sweeping assumptions about today's youth". I have talked to plenty of the NY "youth" also. They are ignorant too.

You have to learn about about everything to make a choice, to be informed. If you are an artist knowing more about art is better, period. You should know about Alex Katz. You should know that he is visible. And if you have any kind of eye you should wonder why. All this goes into making an artist.

Of course one can know art history and like particular contemporary artists. MEK. How else could it be? Who said otherwise?

24.

mek

February 2, 2006, 1:42 PM

oldpro, what precisely do you expect from them and how do they fall short? i understand how you may feel but truly it is all not so bleak, just different. i agree with the information overload statement george and kathleen brought up. that is definately a component. keeping up with technology and delivery systems (of information) yet alone travelling to various cultural venues to appreciate and study art, dabbling in all sorts of mediums, and, alas, working at a job somewhere to pay for college tuition, when do these kids have time to pour over books? on the toilet? nah that's for magazines while IM-ing, of which that 'antiquated" technology is changing as we speak. Overload, yes overload is a factor, as well as faculty and/or role model, as well as the enormous array of artists, historical periods, styles, techniques, ideologies, etc to cherish, sink your teeth into, or discard. I can sympathize with their level of so called ignorance, because as you break it down you can begin to understand it.

25.

Jack

February 2, 2006, 1:54 PM

At Art Basel here a couple of years ago, I saw a quite small and thoroughly pedestrian Alex Katz piece at a booth. I asked the price just to see what it was: I think it was 15K, though it may have been more. I could have told the dealer that if I wanted to spend that much for a signature, I'd want a lot more bang for my buck, but maybe I'm just difficult.

26.

oldpro

February 2, 2006, 3:03 PM

Yes, MEK, when I was a kid I read about art on the toilet. Sometimes, anyway. I even read about art in the bathtub - I remember this because I ruined a friend's expensive, out of print George Caleb Bingham book that way once and he never forgave me.

Good lord, it has nothing to do with "information overload" and "technology". That's just TV chat talk. It has to do with art hunger, needing art. wanting to devour everything you can get your hands on. The internet and alkl that makes it easier, not harder! How can one get into this impossible business and pretend to be an artist and know as little as they do? "Enormous array" my foot! You just do it.

27.

mek

February 2, 2006, 3:57 PM

oldpro, tv chat talk? what's tv? hey, 2 buzz words for ya: speed & technology (thereby producing short attention spans). it is my observation that we have cut down on our portion sizes in order to do more things simultaneously (and drown out hunger) instead of soak in a tub and absorb a great book of art. takes time eh? how about a bidet and thumbpad? (hmmm, Fra on my blackberry. hard to see but i get the idea).

28.

George

February 2, 2006, 4:21 PM

Information overload was not a technical term the way I was using it. For example it can occur if you go to too many galleries or museums in one day, after awhile it all becomes a blur, information overload.

It can happen electronically as well if you look at too much stuff . From a personal perspective, I look for and look at what I need, not everything just because it is there. I looked through all the Medieval rooms at the Met the last time I was there. Why, I'm not sure but there was something I needed to see there.

I also think one can look at a lot of work, be informed? and just see the "look", the makeup, but not have a clue what is going on. You "know" what it looks like but don't have a clue what to do with it. Or worse, you get stuck trying to emulate some hero.

As for young artists, well for those still in school, maybe they don't know nothing, that's why they are there. But, once they get out of school and try to make their way as an artist, it's sink or swim among the sharks, regardless of your location.

29.

oldpro

February 3, 2006, 9:56 AM

I think emulating, even imitating, "heroes" is the best thing a young artist can do, George. Thereis an urgency and depth of learning there that will widen out later and provi\de a foundation for individual development.

I donl't think I could have become a painter without grabbing things helter-skelter from every artist I admired. I always tell my students there is no such thing as plagiarism in the studio. Steal at will. The best students always do.

30.

Franklin

February 3, 2006, 10:00 AM

I tell my students to go around the room and look for things in their fellow students' art to rip off. That's why they're there, I say.

31.

oldpro

February 3, 2006, 10:09 AM

That's right, Franklin. Everyone is so worried about that great shibboleth of "originality" that any influence is seen as tainted, almost immoral.

I tell students that everything they can put into their inventoy of ideas and techniques is another posession, just like a new tube of paint. What counts is not how and where they got it but what they do with it.

32.

George

February 3, 2006, 12:21 PM

Oh, I didn't mean there was anything wrong with emulating your heros while you were in school, that's one way to learn. I was cautioning against emulating your heros as a means of validation for your art (after school). The artworld has no tolerance for this.

33.

Gigi

February 4, 2006, 2:56 AM

Thanks for sharing. Stunning. Color is divine. I agree with George: the paintings
have an abstract, nearly surreal quality which could be today, yesterday or tomorrow:
they are timeless, and the color! Fudge for the eyeballs...

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