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Fra Angelico

Italian Painter and Manuscript Illuminator

Fra Angelico Photo
Movement: Early Renaissance

Born: c. 1395 - Vicchio di Mugello, Florence

Died: c. 1455 - Rome

"He who does Christ's work must stay with Christ always."

Summary of Fra Angelico

Known posthumously as the "Angelic Painter," Fra Angelico helped usher in a revolution in Italian painting. Steeped in a new humanism, Angelico and young painters such as Masaccio insisted on painting religious subjects in a rational, illusionistic space and with all of the solidity of the human body. A friar in the mendicant Dominican order, Angelico fused piety and artistic innovation to create some of the most deeply moving frescoes and altarpieces of the Early Renaissance period.

His transformation of late medieval painting influenced later Renaissance painters, and his religious devotion and feeling for humanity inspired artists centuries later who were searching for ways out of stale academicism.

Key Ideas

His time in the monastery meant that Fra Angelico was immersed in an intellectual milieu that married Christian theology with classical texts. This new humanism insisted on the importance of rational thought and ushered in ideas of individual autonomy that shaped the Renaissance.
Following artists such as Leon Battista Alberti and Masaccio, Fra Angelico translated this emphasis on rationality and precision into painting by creating illusionistic settings using linear perspective to organize his compositions.
Fra Angelico's artistic career coincided with the changing landscape of patronage in 15th-century Europe. Being a Dominican friar in addition to being a painter meant that many of his early works were commissioned by the increasingly powerful Dominican order, but as his reputation grew, he also received many commissions from the new wealthy class of merchants and bankers in central Italy, cementing his reputation as one of the most important painters of the time.
Fra Angelico Photo

Baptised Guido di Pietro, little is known of the friar-painter Fra Angelico's childhood. Giorgio Vasari, writer of Lives of the Artists (1550), proposed 1387 as Angelico's date of birth, but many art historians, citing his stylistic correlation with contemporary Italian painter Masaccio, think it more likely that he was born around 1395. While his birth date remains unknown, we do know he was born in the Mugello valley near the town of Vicchio, situated near Florence, and that he was one of three children. Angelico's brother, Fra Benedett, also became a friar, his sister's name was Checca. The identity of his parents remains unknown, but it is widely assumed that Angelico was born into a prosperous family to have received the training as an artist that established the foundations for his artistic career.

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