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El Greco Photo

El Greco

Greek-Spanish Painter, Sculptor, and Architect

Movement: Mannerism

Born: October 1, 1541 - Crete, Greece

Died: April 7, 1614 - Toledo, Spain

El Greco Timeline

Quotes

"The language of art is celestial in origin and can only be understood by the chosen."
El Greco
"I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head."
El Greco
"I suffer for my art and despise the witless moneyed scoundrels who praise it."
El Greco
"Artists create out of a sense of desolation. The spirit of creation is an excruciating, intricate exploration from within the soul."
El Greco
"I was created by the all powerful God to fill the universe with my masterpieces."
El Greco
"Art is everywhere you look for it, hail the twinkling stars for they are God's careless splatters."
El Greco
"I hold the imitation of color to be the greatest difficulty of art."
El Greco
"I would not be happy to see a beautiful, well-proportioned woman, no matter from which point of view, however extravagant, not only lose her beauty in order to, I would say, increase in size according to the law of vision, but no longer appear beautiful, and, in fact, become monstrous."
El Greco

"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

Synopsis

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.

Biography

El Greco Photo

Childhood

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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El Greco Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
El Greco
Interactive chart with El Greco's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

TitianTitian
TintorettoTintoretto
Paolo VeronesePaolo Veronese
Jacopo Bassano

Personal Contacts

Movements

Classical ArtClassical Art
Venetian Renaissance
MannerismMannerism

Influences on Artist
El Greco
El Greco
Years Worked: 1563 - 1614
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Paul KleePaul Klee
Franz MarcFranz Marc
Édouard ManetÉdouard Manet
Paul CézannePaul Cézanne

Personal Contacts

Movements

ExpressionismExpressionism
CubismCubism
RomanticismRomanticism
Der Blaue ReiterDer Blaue Reiter
SymbolismSymbolism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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