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El Greko (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)

Born: 1541

Painter
Candia - Crete, Greece

El GrecoCretan-born painter, sculptor, and architect who settled in Spain and is regarded as the first great genius of the Spanish School. He was known as El Greco (the Greek), but his real name was Domenikos Theotocopoulos; and it was thus that he signed his paintings throughout his life, always in Greek characters, and sometimes followed by Kres (Cretan).

Little is known of his youth, and only a few works survive by him in the Byzantine tradition of icon painting, notably the recently discovered Dormition of the Virgin (Church of the Koimesis tis Theotokou, Syros). In 1566 he is referred to in a Cretan document as a master painter; soon afterwards he went to Venice (Crete was then a Venetian possession), then in 1570 moved to Rome. The miniaturist Giulio Clovio, whom he met there, described him as a pupil of Titian, but of all the Venetian painters Tintoretto influenced him most, and Michelangelo's impact on his development was also important.

Pacheco, who visited El Greco in 1611, refers to him as a writer on painting, sculpture, and architecture. He had a proud temperament, conceiving of himself as an artist-philosopher rather that a craftsman, and had a lavish life-style, although he had little success in securing the royal patronage he desired and seems to have had some financial difficulties near the end of his life. His workshop turned out a great many replicas of his paintings, but his work was so personal that his influence was slight, his only followers of note being his son Jorge Manuel Theotocopouli and Luis Tristán. Interest in his art revived at the end of the 19th century, and with the development of Expressionism in the 20th century he came into his own.

The strangeness of his art has inspired various theories, for example that he was mad or suffered from astigmatism, but his rapturous paintings make complete sense as an expression of the religious fervour of his adopted country.

 




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