Years ago when I first started to work on Innovators in Painting (it was called the Crash Cruise Course then), I found it difficult to appreciate Raphael. He didn’t have Leonardo’s wide-ranging, sparkling intelligence and wit. He didn’t have the near-legendary stature of Michelangelo.
But Raphael has a wonderful sense of life (even his scenes of catastrophe don’t make me panic), and he has a wondrous ability to put a composition together by the combined use of linear perspective, shapes, and colors. The School of Athens is the blow-me-away example, but the Alba Madonna at the National Gallery is perfect in its own way.
What I’ll look for next time I see this
Raphael was the inspiration for many 19th-century artists, beginning with Ingres. It’s difficult to look at him with fresh eyes if you’ve seen a few dozen syrupy-sweet, simpering Madonnas. I need to look at the Alba Madonna again with Giotto and Fra Filippo Lippi in mind, instead of Ingres and Bouguereau.