Raphael was born in 1483 in Urbino, Italy in a time when the town was a cultural town and arts were encouraged. He grew up looking up to his father, a painter, who taught young Raphael some of the fundamentals of the painting. At the age of eleven years when his father passed on, Raphael continued painting at is fathers workshop, exceeded his late father’s fame and was soon known as the best painter in Urbana. His popularity made him known to Perugino a famous painter who took Raphael as his novice in 1500 and by the year 1504 he was ready to go on his own painting journey. It is important to look back at the paintings by Raphael and explore their formalism.
In formalism, the paintings are explored by contrasting their structure, style, pure visual characteristics and perception. Focus is laid mostly on the order elements of the paintings such as their texture, form, color and contours. Raphael loved making his painting on wooden panels for example the Crucified Christ with the Virgin Mary, Saints and Angels (The Mond Crucifixion) of 1502and The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nichdas of Bari (The Ansidei Madonna) of 1505 (Roy, Spring and Plazzotta 4). Some of his works like The Trinity with Saints Sebastian and Roch and The Creation of Eve were however done on canvas. This has been explained that it was because these two were mostly being transferred from place to place as processional banners mostly in religious festivals canvas was therefore used because it was easy to carry around. His preference was making his paintings on wood than on canvas.
The paintings were prepared on paper in advance as it was traditionally done in central Italy. The drawings included swift introductory sketches, figures for every individual, group figures and specific features like their hands, legs, clothes and even the scenery around them. Before starting the painting process, he would arrange many of his other works on the floor and make use of the ideas that came to mind from observing them to make a new painting. He made use of various drawings to improve his creations. He made cartoons out of the finished composition by pricking with a pin against the wood or canvas to leave dotted lines, which would guide him when making the final painting (Roy, Spring and Plazzotta 5).
His work was precise and even the cartoons or sketches were done carefully. Most of his smaller paintings are based on the cartoon foundation. He would use rulers and compasses to make an outline of the elements when painting as in the case of the Mond Crucifixion. Incision was also used as in the case of Procession to Calvary and the Vision of a Knight. Few were the times he used a free hand on his painting. This only happened if he needed to make a few changes on his painting and if the changes were minor to consider use of the cartoon transfer. A good example is swapping of the neck’s outline in the Madonna of the Pinks and necklines of Virtue and pleasure in Vision of a Knight.
To perfect his paintings, he used his hands at times to spot and model soaked surface paint in a bid to wipe out brush strokes (Roy, Spring and Plazzotta 9). On a closer look at the Mond Crucifixion, fingerprints are notable especially on the hair, face and beard of Christ. Raphael expressed his thoughts in his paintings, as they are able to tell a story. His feelings were clearly played out on the paintings as in the case of the Marriage of the Virgin there is tranquility in the scene as Mary is given a ring by Joseph who is drawn barefoot as it was custom while taking an oath. On the opposite side of the calmness, there is a man captured in motion who seems to be annoyed by the fact that Mary has been won over by another man.
Raphael’s paintings were able to capture all the elements in formalism. In his work, one can be able to identify with the forms such as quality, shape, color and line. Raphael never painted dramatic topics or even violence. His work was moderate and pegged more towards Christianity. Many of the paintings were Christian related examples being the Mond Crucifixion, Marriage of the Virgin and the Madonna, the Procession to Calvary and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nichodas of Bari (Boase 919). Every stroke of each a brush in all his work was done with passion. In conclusion, his work exposes symbolism as in the case of the mother and child relationship in one of his Madonnas, humanity and spirituality are also well elaborated. The use of the crucifying of Christ and the Joseph and Mary are broad evidences. He later graduated into making people’s paintings like the Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
Roy, Ashok, Marika Spring and Carol Plazzotta. Raphael’s Early Work in the National Gallery. Paintings before Rome. (n.d). Print.
Boase T. S. R. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 110.1962. Print.