Monday, June 1, 2009

"Pentecost" by El Greco

El Greco (1541-1614) was a painter,sculptor, and architect. His name was actually Doménikos Theotokópoulos (for those of you interested in Greek, here is his name in the Greek alphabet - Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος) and he was born in Crete, which was part of the Republic of Venice at that time. After he settled in Spain people began referring to him as "El Greco"- the Greek.
After leaving Crete in 1568, where he painted mostly Byzantine icons, of which almost nothing has survived, he went to Italy. He spent time in Venice and Rome. He then went to Spain, where he spent the rest of his life, occasionally making a return visit to Italy.
El Greco had a distinct style - his elongated figures, his intense colors, often his figures looking upward. Mannerism had developed by artists such as Michelangelo. In Mannerism, painting took on more subjective view of the physical world. Often space was compressed, figures elongated and entwined, colors were out of the ordinary. It emphasized the artist's stylishness. It appeal to the artist's intellect and that was something that appealed to El Greco.
After failing to find much success in Italy, El Greco moved to Spain.In 1577 he moved to Toledo, Spain and remained there the rest of his life.
The Counter-Reformation was in full force and in Spain there was a great demand for religious art. The majority of his paintings are religious works, painted with zeal and passion.
After his death, El Greco fell out of favor in the art world. In fact he was down right disdained by the Baroque artists of the 16th century. It wasn't until the late 18th century that he was rediscovered. The Romantics embraced him. In 1890s he became an inspiration to Spanish painters living in Paris. Gradually the rest of the world began to "discover" him. His influence on other artists is varied but is most evident in Paul Cezanne, a forerunner of Cubism, as well as Picasso.
The Pentecost ,which hangs in the Prado in Madrid, Spain, was painted around 1600. It is an oil painting on canvas. It is a good example of El Greco's work - the colors, the exaggerated figures, the intensity and pareligious fervor.
View of Toledo, one of El Greco's most famous works

Paul Cezanne's Road Before the Mountains, Sainte-Victoire (below)

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