Fra Angelico: Imagination, Innovation, and Art

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“[Angelico] a rare and perfect talent”
Vasari, Lives of the artists.

 

One of the reasons I am lucky to live in Madrid is to be able to visit very often the Prado Museum, one of the world finest art museums. A few weeks ago I went, for the second time, to see Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance, a special exhibition that analyses the artistic importance of the early Florentine Renaissance. The exhibition’s main focus was the work of Fra Angelico, one of the greatest masters of this period.

Fra Angelico, a Dominican friar, trained as a painter is among the innovative and original artists of his time. In his work, he used the linear perspective, reshaped familiar religious themes, and their presentation, all were new ideas that created a different experience to same old stories we are familiar with.

His most famous work, probably, is The Annunciation now in the Museo del Prado. This work reveals Angelico’s role in the renaissance of the arts and his way of formulating a new way of seeing which would come to dominate Western art until the modern age.

Thus, when I have the opportunity to learn about innovative minds, I am always intrigued, especially having seen throughout my experience that innovative artists can influence my world, the business world.

Angelico was active when Florence’s wealth derived from banking and its textile industry. It’s luxury fabrics, specially woven silk velvets, in its uniqueness, quality, and inventiveness were known across Europe and beyond. The industry had unique innovations such as the use of gold and silver for threading which made Florence textiles prestigious items sold throughout the continent.

Artists responded to, participated in, and were inspired by these inventions. Some, especially the ones of significant stature were involved in developing patterns for fabrics; many, portrayed them in their works. Just like his contemporaries, Angelico took special notice of these fabrics, often using them in his works. However, as a true innovator, he imagined, conceptualized, and created original patterns of his own.

His long-life interest in textile, his attention to details, both in patterns and materials, shows that he kept up with the industry’ inventions. More importantly, it implies that he might have provided designs for the industry.

It made me think.

How many fabric producers understood that artists’ imagination could become a driver to innovation in designsWere they smart enough to combine their execution as businessmen, with the artists’ imagination and originality? Angelico and other artists’ work could easily have been adopted by weavers interested in expanding the design repertoire of their offering.

What is the approach of business people today? Do business leaders understand they can learn from artists and drive their industries forward working with artists?

What I often notice, is that frequently, the business world looks down upon the art world, when it comes to innovation and business. Business leaders are skeptical about artists’ ability to understand their world, participate in it, or even change it.

I wonder how many marketing agencies and post-production companies are familiar with RGBD Toolkit, a creative hardware/software tool for capturing volumetric video?

This product was developed by three photographers who encountered a challenge in their job. When they didn’t find any a solution, they did what artists often do – they created one. Just like Angelico, the three photographers imagined, conceptualized and built a solution. Their solution is now changing the way we made a film, shoot a commercial, and capture videos.

Is it possible that business leaders are missing the imagination and invention of artists that reacts to their industry?