Interesting Facts About El Greco
El Greco, who was he?
Doménikos Theotokópoulos, also known as "El Greco," was a painter, architect, and sculpture during the Spanish Renaissance. Greco was born into a wealthy household. A post-Byzantine art school provided him with his early art education.
What is El Greco's claim to fame?
El Greco is well renowned for his twisted stretched shapes painted in surreal coloring that, and with its harsh vividness. El Greco's work has also been recognized as a predecessor to Expressionism because he rendered a dynamic style, previously unseen.
What does El Greco actually mean?
El Greco's painting style was intriguing.
El Greco's quirkiness is represented in his art, which has been difficult to describe by scholars. El Greco's work defies categorization because of his unique blend of Byzantine tradition and Renaissance creativity. He broke free from all creative restraints with his unrestrained inventiveness.
His theatrical scenes convey particular emotions and feelings instead of faithfully recreating reality. El Greco creates distinct atmospheres with broad strokes and striking contrasts between light and dark, while his alien, elongated forms provoke a sense of transcendence.
Similarly, his impassioned use of color leads the many features of his works to melt together, requiring the audience to consider the figures' relation to their surroundings.
El Greco fine-tuned his artistic approach in Italy.
El Greco relocated to Venice for several years in his early to mid-twenties after completing his basic training in Crete. Despite the lack of proof from his time in Italy, a letter reveals that he was a pupil of the elderly but still well-known titian. It's unclear whether this meant el Greco worked in Titian's workshop or was simply a fan of the artist.
In either event, the impact of the Venetian master can be seen in the paintings el Greco created while in rome when he lived with cardinal Alessandro Farnese, a famous patron of the arts. The teenage painter had access to Rome's elite societies, which included other artists, philosophers, and potential supporters, thanks to the cardinal's friendship. El Greco took up a variety of new artistic skills and methods in Italy.
He learned to compose his visuals around a vanishing point and organize sceneries to develop a feeling of depth from the Venetian school, as well as titian's impactful use of color and Tintoretto's slender, lithe figures; in Rome, he perfected his technical skills, having to learn to compose his sequences around a vanishing point and organize scenery to create a sense of depth. These new Italian traits, along with the post-byzantine style he had learned in Crete, rendered el Greco's style completely unique.
El Greco's early environment had a big impact on him.
Theotokopoulos grew up on the bustling island of Crete, which was then under the sovereignty of the Venetian republic and functioned as a vital stopover on the busy marine routes connecting east and west. As a consequence, he was exposed to a wide range of cultures, which likely inspired the methods and techniques he later used in his art.
His father was a tax collector, and his older brother was a wealthy merchant, thus he was born into a prosperous household. This meant that Domenicos received a good education, acquired classical languages, and became acquainted with the principles of mathematics, engineering, and art that had progressed from antiquity to the present.
He studied painting at the Cretan school, which at the time had over 200 recognized members and was the epicenter of post-byzantine art. He had become a master in the guild of Cretan artists at the age of 22, and he was considering opening his own studio. During this time, he created a variety of devotional works, including the Modena Triptych, St. Luke's Virgin and Child, and his renowned Adoration of the Magi.
El Greco developed an intriguing reputation in Rome.
El Greco, although establishing himself in Rome as a professional painter with his own studio and helpers. He joined the guild of Saint Luke, was not well received. The painter was dubbed a "foolish foreigner" by one notable architect and writer, and he was eventually forced to depart due to a conflict with the cardinal.
While the particular details of these fights are unknown, it's easy to understand how el Greco could have ruffled some Romans. He is said to have been eager and obstinate in his pursuit of a name for himself and his work.
This approach resulted in not only a high opinion of his own abilities but also vocal criticism of other artists' work. El Greco, for example, despite being highly influenced by Michelangelo, said that the ancient master "did not know how to paint" and even offered to Pope Pius V that he hired him to paint over the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel!
Upon his arrival in Spain, he was still unable to impress King Philip II.
El Greco traveled to Spain after falling out with numerous of his contemporaries in Italy, where he initially attempted to make his mark in Madrid. The vast palace of el escorial was being built at the time, and king Philip ii was looking for painters to create masterpieces to decorate its walls.
Despite his efforts, all of the Italian Renaissance masters declined to travel to Spain. As a result, when el Greco landed in the capital, Philip asked him to create an altarpiece depicting St. Maurice's martyrdom. El Greco's creation was daring and dramatic, but Philip doesn't seem to have been captivated. The artwork was supposed to go in the el escorial chapel, but the king decided to put it in the less significant chapter-house.
It's unclear what Philip found so repulsive in the painting. Perhaps the tumultuous mass of humanity in the foreground, or the twirling, catastrophic sky, clashed too strongly with the high renaissance ideas of clarity and harmony. El Greco was denied any future commissions by the king in any circumstances.
El Greco uniquely approached religious art.
During El Greco's lifetime, devotional art dominated Cretan painting, yet he added something unique to this well-established genre. There is controversy about whether the Theotokópoulos lineage was Greek orthodox or catholic in faith; one member was undoubtedly an orthodox priest, while el Greco described himself as a catholic in his testament, which could have been owing to Spanish pressure.
In any case, the artist was clearly exposed to both religious sects and, as a result, their respective devotional painting styles. El Greco combines the Cretan school's style, which was highly influenced by eastern orthodox symbology, with mannerism, which had emerged in Italy earlier in the sixteenth century, in his own religious works.
Individual figures and color palettes are typical of post-byzantine icons like his icon Dormition of the Virgin, for example, while the structure and composition of the entire artwork are more reminiscent of religious paintings painted during the Italian Renaissance.
El Greco's distinct approach to devotional art is a component of both time and location: during the sixteenth century, transformation and culture were constantly clashing, requiring artists to seek ways to understand faith; likewise, his native Crete placed him at the crossroads of many multiple ethnicities, artistic styles, and modes of thought.
In Toledo, El Greco finally gained the reputation he desired.
El Greco was on the road again when his big break in Madrid fell through, this time landing in Toledo, where he spent the rest of his life. Toledo was Spain's religious capital at the time, a cultural hotspot with a slew of notable thinkers, clergymen, and artists. Many of these characters were familiar to El Greco, including the dean of Toledo Cathedral, Diego de Castilla.
He was given many major commissions to create paintings for some of the city's most spectacular churches through Castilla. El Greco had painted numerous works for the churches and inhabitants of Toledo within a few years of relocating, along with some of his greatest masterpieces, like the Assumption of the Virgin. During this period, his art reached its height, and his legacy was solidified. El Greco was dubbed "one of the greatest men in both this nation and outside it" by a contemporary.
El Greco had an active social life.
We can construct a fascinating and entertaining picture of el Greco's personal life from the various anecdotes that have remained. El Greco was embroiled in scandal in Spain as well, even after his confrontations in Italy. In 1607, for example, he was involved in a legal battle about payment for his paintings, sculptures, and construction work.
He was in financial trouble as a result of this, as well as other legal matters. However, this did not appear to stop him from enjoying a luxury lifestyle: his apartments were believed to be extraordinarily lavish, with musicians performing for him and his friends while they dined. Jeronima de las Cuevas, his partner and the mother of his only son, was one of his acquaintances.
El Greco's strange penchant for working in the dark is documented in another source. He decided to rely on his 'inner light' and kept his drapes drawn, preferring to have illumination from the outside environment affect his paintings. These anecdotes, when combined with his renowned promise to redo Michelangelo's work, give the picture of a self-assured and eccentric guy.
He has one son who would go on to be a painter as well.
El Greco had a Spanish woman named Jerónima de Las Cuevas, whom he once painted. She was the mother of Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli, his only son, who was born in 1578.
Although his son became a painter and supported his father in his senior years, he did not acquire his father's painting talent. He did, however, go on to become a well-known architect and artist, serving as the master builder, sculptor, and designer of the Toledo Cathedral, in which he created the dome.
His latter two decades were also his most prosperous.
El Greco's initial success in Toledo enabled him to hire helpers and open his own workshop, where he created not just paintings but also altarpiece and statue frames. He was even interested in architecture, playing a vital role in the renovation of Santo Domingo el Antiguo Church and Monastery, for which he had painted several works during his early years in Toledo.
The city seemed to give him a new lease of life, as he proceeded to create ever more unique and exquisite works of art, including The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, which is now his most famous work. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the artist rekindled his creativity, producing at least 11 significant paintings for churches across Spain between 1597 and 1605.
El Greco's very final work, the Adoration of the Shepherds, was created to adorn his own tomb, which was a suitable but somewhat macabre end. The artist creates a great sensation of light and optimism emanating from the newborn christ by using the stark contrast between light and shade.
Many decades later, El Greco's legacy came into its own.
Although many of his peers, including Philip II, were perplexed by el Greco's innovative style of painting, his work was finally recognized centuries later. The rise of romanticism in the 18th century sparked a fascination with the exotic, passionate, and extravagant.
His paintings began to be recognized as classics after ticking all of these boxes, inspiring artists such as Eugène Delacroix and Edouard Manet. The world of art, on the other hand, did not fully appreciate the tribute it owed to el Greco's legacy until the twentieth century. El Greco's later paintings have represented in the form of work, which is recognized as a vital aspect in the expressionist, cubist, and abstract expressionist movements' concepts. Pablo Picasso, who studied el Greco's work in Paris in the early 1900s, was one of the early proponents of these techniques.
The opening of the fifth seal is supposed to have inspired his famous Les Demoiselles D'avignon, notably, the way form and space are warped and merged. El Greco's influence on following artistic movements illustrates the significance of his legacy, demonstrating that despite his paintings were rejected or scorned during his life, they proceeded on to cement his legacy in art history.