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Fra Angelico and the Divine Painter

by Fr. Cristóbal Torres Iglesias, OP

Mar. 17
2012

Both his holiness and the beauty of his work earned the Dominican friar Giovanni da Fiesole the nickname Fra Angelico.  Fra Angelico is unique partly because of his place between two key historical periods and styles in Western art: the late Gothic and the Renaissance.  Deeper study of his work reveals a genius who was able, prophetically and with originality, to bring to life on the cell walls of his confreres the fruits of a life given to contemplation.  As we contemplate the work of the friar from Fiesole, we encounter the wondrous and disquieting mystery of God's call to every human person to participate in the divine work of creation.    

 

Creation is more than divine self-revelation; it is the self-giving of a God of love, an extravagant flowing over of divinity through inexhaustible signs, shadows and light, in rich and near infinite textures and colors.  The God of Christian revelation is first and foremost an artist, the painter par excellence: The Father's creativity spills forth in the colors that enflesh the Word in the textured canvas we call the universe, a canvas on which the Holy Spirit shows forth the unpredictable strokes of Providence.  Creation is the primordial sign of God's overflowing love; and to create is the prototypical divine act.  The Incarnation, besides being the center and the zenith of divine creativity, invites the human person to participate in this act.  In Christ the God-Man, the divine painter does the unheard of and hands us the brush, all the while mysteriously imprinting the work with his own Being.    

 

God makes us participants in the intimate union of canvas and color, inviting us to tell our story while calling us to proclaim the story of God's creative overflowing, the passionate story of the divine painter Who so burns with love that he empties himself into his work, infusing it with his breath and surrendering his own blood.  By so emptying himself into his work the painter forms us, inducting us into his school and empowering us to imitate him in such a way that we participate fully in the painting's completion.  The work of art is simultaneously God's Self-revelation and a cosmic narrative: It is the story of our creation, evolution, and redemption, and will culminate, passionately and in glory, when painter and painting are forever united in a tender and infinite embrace.  

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