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El Greco

Art Essay / Artists  / El Greco

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.

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.

The Art and Influence of El Greco

Changes of fashion may be arbitrary, but changes of taste are not. The latter are always to be traced to some more or less conscious need on the part of the community. What we call the vogue or popularity of an artist whether his medium be literature, music, or the fine arts, is the product of something sound or shallow, trivial or serious, in the hearts and minds of the people for which he has found an expression. The mood of the people changes and that artists vogue suffers an eclipse; only, however, to shine forth again when a later generation rediscovers the same mood. It is in this way and for this reason that the vogue of certain artists of the...

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