What is the function of art and the artist in 'Fra Lippo Lippi'?

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alison3000 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like lots of Browning's poems the theme is one of art and specifically whether an artist can ever truly capture a person; 'Can't I take breath and try to add life's flash?' Essentially this is the artists' dilemma-how can anyone's humanity be captured on canvas? Can we ever hope to 'paint the souls of men'? Browning is also hinting that paintings may be censored; 'Rub all out' and that really the artist's task is essentially too difficult 'nature is complete: Suppose you reproduce her- (which you can't)'     

Browning is also considering the commisioned artist who was often a religious figure i.e. a monk in this case and his task. The person commisioning the work may not be of good character but the artist still has to produce his best work.         

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