Wednesday, May 5, 2010

About Domenicos Theotocopoulos...

With a name like that, you might think I'm writing about another Greek friend. Not so. If he were a friend, he'd be about 400 years old. Actually, it was the Spaniards with their penchant for nicknames that referred to him as "El Greco," (the Greek).

El Greco (1541-1614)was born on the island of Crete and received extensive art training in both Venice and Rome. Later, he moved to Spain where he lived in Toledo until his death.

Art historians have had a hard time categorizing his style. Part Renaissance, mannerism, and expressionism in style, he is considered the precursor for cubism and impressionism. From what is historically known about him, it's more than likely that what he really was a man who did not live his life or art under the strictures of the times. In his art, he believed above all in freedom of style and is quoted as considering color more important than form.

His unique style meant that his work was not highly regarded in his lifetime. It would be another 300 years before his unusual amalgam of styles and fervor were recognized and appreciated.

One of the best known of his works is titled, "The Burial of Count Orgaz" shown below. (This is a very large painting - click image for detail.)

Here are a two more of his paintings. You can see the quality of his portraits and his ability with composition. The background on the right one seems to hint of surrealism. What do you think?


  1. I've been a fan of El Greco since I first saw his painting of Christ on the cross. Never thought about surrealism and El Greco. Interesting. Welcome back. Bet you're missing the warm weather. Jen

  2. Being somewhat of a rebel in the art world of the time I can imagine his work was not properly appreciated. His strange elongated figures with the sorrowful faces seem a bit creepy to me.The Spaniards problably could neither spell nor pronounce his Greek name, hence "The Greek".


  3. Hi SZ,

    I'm with the Spaniards - I can imagine that any non-Greeks would have trouble with his name. Much easier to call him El Greco although he signed his art with his full Greek name.


  4. I enjoyed your blog on El Greco. I loved the paintings - especially St. Dom in prayer - definitely surrealistic. Jackie