El Greco Biography

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El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (1541–1614)

Born in Candia (Iráklion), Crete. In Italy he was called El Grequa and later in Spain El Greco. Few details of his life are known. He was in Venice by 1570 (he probably studied under the then aged Titian), when he went to Spain is uncertain. His earliest known painting there was done in 1577 in Toledo, where he spent the rest of his life.

His early work, reflecting his origin, shows the influence of Byzantine icons, but also the influence of Michelangelo and Mannerism, and the Venetians (including Tintoretto and Bassano). From this he progressed to his extraordinary, very personal religious style expressive both of Spanish fanaticism and his own spiritual ecstasy.

His works are finished with passion and power. An otherworldly quality is suggested by the elongated bodies, the bold, almost phosphorescent, colours with sharp contrasts of blue, yellow and green.

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The emotional rather than the actual content of the subject became increasingly stressed as the Mannerism of his earlier style is modified by a baroque conception of space and movement.

Among his masterpieces are The Burial of Count Orgaz(Toledo), View of Toledo (New York), The Scourging of Christ (Madrid) and The Disrobing of Christ(Munich). Despite the religious preoccupation of his painting, he was a humanist, very widely read.