Transcript of "El Greco - the Greek painter in Spain"
El Greco – the Greek painter in Spain
made by Rogacheva M.
El Greco His Style
Born on the island of Crete in
Theotokopoulos acquired the
El Greco - the Greek -
in Italy and Spain.
The painter announced his
Cretan origin by his signature
in Greek letters on his most
El Greco was trained as an icon painter but he
transformed himself into a disciple of Titian and an avid
student of Tintoretto, Veronese, and Jacopo Bassano.
He moved to Venice in 1567 where he mastered the
elements of Renaissance painting.
From Venice, El Greco moved to Rome, where he
worked from 1570 to 1576. He joined the painter's
academy and he set up shop, taking on at least one
assistant, and possibly two. His intention must have
been to pursue a Roman career, but after six years he had
not received a single commission for an altarpiece.
Yes, El Greco had ill-advisedly criticized
Michelangelo's abilities as a painter, an opinion
that generated little confidence in his abilities.
It led to him being ostracized by the Roman
El Greco moved to Spain in 1576, where he
lived and worked for the rest of his life.
In Madrid, El Greco tried to secure royal
patronage from King Philip II, but to no avail. Not
until he settled in Toledo did El Greco meet with the
success an artist of his caliber might have expected.
There he found a sympathetic circle of intellectual
friends and patrons and forged a highly profitable
At that time Toledo had been an important
Medieval city and the cradle of Spanish humanism
thanks to its secular multiculturalism.
The city's cosmopolitan character, the existence of
a strong civil society and a rich cultural life, together
with the international vocation of the governing
classes and the commencement of grand building
projects designed to modernize the city, no doubt
played a part in determining the artist's choice to live
Years later after El Greco arrival the definitive exit of
the Royal Court marked the beginning of Toledo's
gradual decline and its ultimate decadence. Toledo's
leaders reacted by promoting the civic pride of the city's
inhabitants, an initiative in which the artist played an
active part. Thanks to this, Toledo became the imperial
city that enjoyed the monarchy's favor, the city of God
blessed with the protection of the saints, as depicted by
El Greco in his paintings.
A consequence of these changes was the gradual
decline of the city's leading cultural role, something that
was already evident upon the death of genial artist.
View and Plan of Toledo With this and other pictures of Toledo El Greco created the
Spanish landscape, a new branch of art. The map partially corrects the view of the city to
improve the composition. In the upper part of the picture there is a scene in which the
Virgin presents a vestment to St Ildefonso. The landscape is painted in brownish-green and
blue tints, and the mythological and religious elements are minimal.
View of Toledo
The city is presented
both full-face and in
The threatening dark
wrath of the sky points
to the stormy
embodiment of the
joint powers of the city:
the power of the
Church and the power
of the State.
Did El Greco tell us
here his own myth and
his own judgment of
powers of earth?
What does make
El Greco style
St. Peter and St. Paul
El Greco painted two apostles several
times. Peter is always shown with
white hair and beard, and he often
wears his yellow cloak over a blue
tunic. Paul is always shown slightly
balding, with dark hair and beard,
wearing a red mantle thrown over a
blue or green tunic, which is here just
visible at the neck.
El Greco was one of the first painters
in Spain to depict the two Christian
apostles together. This enabled the
artist both to reflect on religious
concerns and to contrast their
different personalities: St Paul is
devout and passionate, St Peter gentle
and meek. The poses and gestures, the
colours and expression, the superb
technique, all these emphasize the
contrast between the two.
From the paired legs
of the legendary man
and the legendary
horse to the paired
eyes of the two youths
and thence to the
paired beauties of sky
and heads, we rapidly
descend to the very
center of Greco's
passion: the emerald
green of a lowered
landscape into whose
flesh the white flesh
of the lifted foreleg
In this scene the
between St. Martin's
complete attire and
complete nudity is
like a ritual sacrifice
to another, greater
nudity: the enhanced
nudity of the beggar,
the nudity of the
white steed in its
nudity of the radiant,
immense sky. And
love is its subject.
St Martin and the
The Opening of the Fifth Seal
The painting was unfinished at El Greco's death and
listed in a postmortem inventory.
In the foreground is the incredibly elongated, ecstatic
figure of Saint John. It was Cossio who, in 1908, first
proposed that the painting suggested a visualization of
the Book of Revelation, when Saint John the Evangelist
witnesses the breaking of the Fifth Seal by the Lamb of
... I saw under the altar
the souls of them who
were slain for the word of
God, and for the testimony
which they held. And they
cried with a loud voice,
saying, "How long, O
Lord, holy and true, does
thou not judge and avenge
our blood on them that
dwell on the earth?" And
white robes were given to
every one of them; and it
was said unto them, that
they should rest yet for a
little season, until their
fellow servants also and
their brethren, that should
be killed as they were,
should be fulfilled.
Fifth Seal in particular went on to spark great
debate, as it has been suggested that it was an
influence on Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon,
often considered the first cubist painting
During the crucial period Pablo Picasso was
working on that keystone of modern painting, Les
Demoiselles d'Avignon, he visited his friend Ignacio
Zuloaga in his studio in Paris and studied El Greco's
Opening of the Fifth Seal, which left an indelible
impression. For Picasso, too, El Greco was both the
quintessential Spaniard and a precursor of Cezanne
The Burial of the Count of
The Count was said to be a pious
man, a philanthropist, and a
knight. After the Count died in
1312, he was interred by the
Cardinal and a host of clerics.
The story goes that during this
ceremony, the heavens erupted
spontaneously and friends and
mourners witnessed a sky filled
with images of Jesus, the Virgin,
St. John, and several other saints
and angels. Legend explains that
Saint Augustine and Saint
Stephen appeared to reward the
Count for his generosity to the
church by burying him with their
own hands and dazzling all those
The Adoration of the
As was usual with El Greco's
final works, the bodies of the
shepherds are considerably
distorted from their natural forms,
contrasting with the more classical
appearance of the angels who fly
above the scene. This, combined
with the unusual angles and poses
of the characters, was intended to
give an impression of ecstatic
This popular legend towards the latter part
of his career has no foundation in fact, but his
painting became more and more eccentric as
his life went on, and his natural perversity
and love of strange, cold coloring, increased
towards the end of his life.
For more than a generation his work was hardly
known. El Greco was rescued from obscurity by an avid
group of nineteenth-century collectors, critics, and
artists and became one of the select members of the
modern pantheon of great painters.
Now he is gaining rapidly in importance, and its true
position is more and more recognized.
El Greco. Biography
El Greco: Paintings, Biography, Quotes
National Gallery of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Web Oficial del IV Centenario del Greco
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