El Greco

Essay by lin398432High School, 11th gradeA+, September 2008

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El Greco's dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries but found appreciation in the 20th century. He is regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism, while his personality and works were a source of inspiration for various poets and writers. El Greco has been characterized by modern scholars as an artist so individual that he belongs to no conventional school. He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagorical pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

El Greco was born in Crete, which was at that time part of the Republic of Venice, and the centre of Post-Byzantine art. At the time Catherine de' Medici was the ruling power in Venice. El Greco was descended from a prosperous urban family, which was Greek orthodox. El Greco apparently transferred to Catholicism after his arrival to the West, and was certainly Catholic in Spain, where he described himself as a "devout Catholic" in his will, certainly having a great impact on his works.

El Greco received his initial training as an icon painter of the Cretan school, the leading centre of post-Byzantine art. Unlike other Cretan artists in Venice, El Greco substantially altered his style by inventing new and unusual interpretations of traditional religious subject matter. His works painted in Italy were influenced by the Venetian Renaissance style of the period, with agile, elongated figures reminiscent of Tintoretto and a chromatic framework that connects him to Titian. In 1577, El Greco emigrated from Rome first to Madrid, then to Toledo, where he lived and worked until his death 1614. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his mature works. At the time, Toledo was the religious capital of Spain. His final aim was to win the...