Wednesday, January 19, 2011
"I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head."
I wasn't quite sure who or what I wanted to write about next...so I asked my fellow Art Historians and got El Greco! Excellent suggestion too for his lovely colors, elongated figures, and his connection to Spain. My favorite area is 17th century Spanish Baroque art and though El Greco came a bit earlier, I got to see some of his works at the Prado museum when I was in Madrid in 2007...and they're gorgeous!
El Greco - The Mannerist MasterFirst, let me just say...El Greco is NOT Spanish. He is, in fact, Greek, indicated by his nickname "El Greco" ("The Greek"). His real name is Domenikos Theotokopoulos (And now we know why he went by his nickname...) and he was born in Crete in 1541. He was considered a master painter in Crete, but like any other good artist of the era, he went to Italy to further his craft. In Italy (Venice and Rome), he reportedly studied under Titian. In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain (painted by El Greco in the painting above) where he remained until his death on April 7, 1614.
El Greco is best known for his Mannerist painting tendencies. Mannerism was an era of the late Italian Renaissance known for its elongated figures, highly stylized poses, and a lack of sensible perspective. El Greco took to this style, rejecting classical proportion and measure and emphasizing color as the most important element of art (likely influenced from his Venetian teachings). He used the emphasis on color, distorted proportion, and irregular light (as if each figure had its own light source) to dramatize religious tension and ecstasy.
El Greco is specifically known for his paintings, but he was also an architect and sculptor. His constructions were usually made for churches or their altars. Unfortunately, some of his works no longer survive because they were made of wood and perished or were destroyed over time. He was responsible for some of the architecture (paintings and interior sculptors as well) of the church and Monastery of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, where he is now buried.
After his death, as unfortunately happens with many artists, El Greco fell into obscurity. But he was rediscovered and found new appreciation in the 20th century with artists like Picasso, Eugene Delacroix, and Éduoard Manet. The color and expressiveness influenced Delacroix and Manet, while Picasso, Cézanne and other cubism frontrunners got attached to El Greco's distorted morphology. El Greco's works are regarded as catalysts for Expressionism and Cubism.