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Why Study Fra Angelico- Podcast #38

Fra Angelico is another great Renaissance artist. We can see the Gothic-to-Renaissance progression over the years in his works of art and have rich conversations about the underlying philosophies and worldviews that influenced art at this time. Fra Angelico’s artwork also shows some examples of foreshortening, a key drawing skill!

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Fra Angelico art classWho was Fra Angelico?

  • He was born in 1395 (mid-Renaissance) and died in 1455.
  • He was the ultimate nice guy.
  • His name changed a few times. (I hope you all can just laugh at all my trouble pronouncing names!)
  • Fra Angelico was a name given to him after his death.

What Kind of Art Did Fra Angelico Create?

  • Fra Angelico started out illuminating manuscripts (see episode 33 on Illuminated Manuscripts).
  • Then, he painted many frescos and polyptych altarpieces (a multi-panel, free-standing artwork).
  • His paintings started with Gothic characteristics but his later works are in the Renaissance style.
  • He varied elements of his paintings based on his patron and the location. Most of his art was not flashy, but when painting for wealthy patrons, he included expensive paint color and gold leaf. (Interested in doing a gold leaf project? Check out the videos on DickBlick.com, a great art wholesaler!)

How did the Culture Influence his Art?

  • Fra Angelico was part of the Dominicans, a Renaissance monastic group who valued nature as a way to learn about God and Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
  • This is all in contrast to the Modern perspective of art that says Beauty, as well as Goodness and Truth, are subjective.
  • The Renaissance style also focused on the humanity of Christ and an individual’s unique characteristics.
  • Nancy Pearcey’s book Saving Leonardo talks about theology and philosophy in different eras and how they show up in art:
    • In the Renaissance period, “The Greek preference for the universal began to be balanced by an appreciation of the concrete individual. For God himself- the ultimate universal- had become a unique individual. Individuality was no longer merely an arbitrary aberration from the universal ideal. It had worth and dignity in its own right.” (Hardback, p.81)
  • The Renaissance style aimed to paint realistic depictions of religious scenes, so they included foreshortening.
    • Foreshortening is distorting a subject to give it the illusion of depth.Lamentation of Christ
    • A popular Renaissance example is The Lamentation of Christ by Andrea Mantegna (see side photo).
    • Foreshortening uses multiple methods of perspective. (Foreshortening is about size and overlap.)
    • For example, imagine a rod or pipe and how it might look from different angles.
    • There’s a lot of foreshortening in what we see in everyday life.
    • Whenever you’re struggling to draw a foreshortened subject, grid it out! (Draw a grid on a reference photo and then transfer the drawing, one square at a time)
    • As a natural artist, Angelico used foreshortening in his art- not perfectly- but really good, given that he didn’t have Brunelleschi’s method mathematical perspective.

Fra Angelico Art Project

We’re doing a foreshortening art project to help students get used to the strange feeling of drawing a foreshortened figure.

Understanding Foreshortening with Angelico- C1W15 Lesson Plan

Personal Renaissance


The whole family went to Lubbock, TX for her son’s race and also got to see the Texas Tech University Museum. If you’re ever there, check it out!

Then the family when mountain biking. She got some beautiful photos (posted on Instagram), but then fell and sprained her ankle. 🙁

  • She was resilient, reminding Julie of a recent Donald Miller podcast about resilience!
    • Miller interviewed Bonnie St. John about the time she fell in an Olympic race, but got back up and kept going. “People fall down. Winners get up. But sometimes the gold medal winner is just the person who gets up the fastest.” – Bonnie St. John


  • Julie’s been focusing on writing her upcoming art book!
  • Julie’s sons are LOVING Wood burning! (We hope to do a blog post on it soon.)
  • In my down time, Julie has been painting her 2019 Alisa Taylor Design Calendar. Check out Instagram for pictures!

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