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El Greco

Greek-Spanish Painter, Sculptor, and Architect

El Greco Photo
Movement: Mannerism

Born: October 1, 1541 - Crete, Greece

Died: April 7, 1614 - Toledo, Spain

"You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul and put to sword those who would try to steal it."

El Greco Signature

Summary of El Greco

El Greco's life and work were marked by a deep underlying devotion to God. Compelled as a young man to become an artist, he mastered a longstanding tradition of Byzantine icon art, yet by the time he eventually settled in Spain his inspiration was largely drawn from the burgeoning Italian and Spanish Renaissances. Although his early ambitions were to become a court painter, his individual style that began to emerge in Spain quickly catapulted him from the confines of any conventional school. He became vastly interested in the new Mannerist movement, a group who disavowed the mere imitation of nature in art, and instead sought to express the underlying psychological aspects of a work beyond its mythological or religious themes. These concepts informed a body of work that is deeply evocative of the Divine and universally noted for manifesting the spirituality that lay beneath all being.

Key Ideas

El Greco is best known for his tortuously elongated figures painted in phantasmagorical pigmentation, which almost resembled chalk with its blunt vividness. Drawing upon Byzantine tradition while incorporating a Mannerist's veer from reality, these abstracted, expressionist forms established a new visual dialogue that broke away from traditional modes of representation in Classical art.
The importance of imagination and intuition over subjective characterization was a fundamental principle in El Greco's style, allowing him the freedom to discard such classical criteria as measure and proportion. Instead, he employed techniques such as radical foreshortening to challenge perceptions of the norm.
A tendency to dramatize rather than describe marks the painter's work, articulated through bold, unreal choices in color, and the juxtaposition of highlights next to dark, thick outlines. These jarring contrasts result in an emotional transference from painting to viewer.
El Greco's work has also been cited as a precursor to Expressionism for its presentation of the emotional in ways that had not been articulated before. He is also said to have had an influence on the Cubists, most notably Pablo Picasso, because of the way his paintings reconsidered form and figure beyond literal reality.
El Greco Photo

Doménikos Theotokópoulos was born in 1541 in Crete, a Greek island that was part of the thriving Republic of Venice. Little is known of his childhood, other than the fact that he chose to be an artist at a very young age.

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