September 4, 2008

The Art of El Greco

El Greco (1541 - 1614) which is spanish for ‘the Greek’ was born in Crete. He moved to Spain in 1577 and despite his heritage, he become one of the greatest masters of Spanish painting at that time. Always remaining proud of his national heritage throughout his life, he signed his work using characters from the Greek alphabet.

(El Greco. View of Toledo. c.1604-1614. Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.)

Unfortunately, El Greco did not maintain his heightened fame after his death in 1614. Centuries later, not only was Thomas Hart Benton admiring him, he was ‘rediscovered’ by the Cubists, such as Paul Cézanne & Pablo Picasso, along with the German Expressionists. They were all attracted to El Greco’s work because of the expressive distortions of form and color in his painting.

(El Greco. St. James the Greater. 1600s. Oil on canvas. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.)

“El Greco has a style which is quite unique in European painting: a strange combination of the expressive power of Italian Mannerism but illuminated by a mystical light and color that reflects the artist's intense spiritual fervor." (

"El Greco freely distorted his figures and exaggerated the color and tone of his paintings to achieve the unique mystical vision for his art.” (

(El Greco. St. Martin and the Beggar. 1597-1599. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA.)

I love the contrast created by the dramatic colors. I have always loved the way that he elongates the human body, making them seem as though they are almost weightless. It brings an almost peaceful feeling to admire it. Thank you El Greco!

Enjoy :)