Soul Eyes

Arthur C. Danto in The Nation:

Fra_3Masaccio discovered how convincingly to make a two-dimensional figure on a flat plane look like a three-dimensional object in real space. Fra Angelico discovered how convincingly to create the illusion of a living figure whose exterior features express an inner spiritual state–the look of love, a state of devotion or one of anguish.

Contrasting the two artists in his great work on aesthetics, Hegel praised Fra Angelico for his invention of what the philosopher called “interiority”–“the investigation of inner coordination, the indwelling meaning of facial expressions.” Fra Angelico’s work is infused, Hegel writes, “with the fervor of a religious love remote from the world, with a conventual purity of disposition, elevation, and sanctity of soul.” He was not called Fra Angelico for nothing. But who would expect an exhibition of works by so pure a spirit, so naïve a faith, so innocent a vision to be the hottest show of the season? No one would say that the remarkable exhibition of Fra Angelico at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through January 29) is likely to be the school for contemporary New York artists. But it is the show to which artists tell me they keep going back.

More here.