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El Greco

El Greco

The famous painter El Greco is considered a Greek-born Spanish Artist. El Greco lived in Toledo for several years. Learn more about his work.

The painter known as “El Greco” (The Greek) was born in Crete, Greece. His real name was Doménikos Theotokópoulos and he usually signed his paintings in Greek letters: Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος.

El Greco studied in Venice and Rome before moving to Toledo, Spain in 1577 where he received major commissions and produced his best known paintings. El Greco would live and work in Spain until the end of his life. Due to the fact that he spent most of his life in Spain and produced the majority of his work there, El Greco is considered a Greek-born Spanish artist.

El Greco befriended Diego de Castilla, the dean of the Cathedral of Toledo, and through him he was signed on to produce paintings for the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo and painting: The Disrobing of Christ (El Expolio) for the Cathedral of Toledo. The nine paintings that El Greco produced by 1579 for Santo Domingo church, including The Trinity and The Assumption of the Virgin, solidified the painter's reputation in Toledo.

El Greco's aim was to win the favor of King Philip II, but after two of his paintings failed to gain the King's favor, the painter was obliged to remain in Toledo. The painter hired an assistant and opened a workshop to produce altar frames and statues in addition to paintings. In March of 1586, El Greco won the commission for The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, now his best-known work. The following decade was intense for the Spanish painter whose workshop produced various pictorial and sculptural ensembles for several religious institutions.

The major commissions included the three altars for the Chapel of San José in Toledo (1597-1599), three paintings (1596-1600) for the Doña María de Aragon School in Madrid, and the St. Ildefonso painting, as well as altars, for the Hospital of Charity (Hospital de la Caridad) in Illescas (1603-1605). El Greco's last major commission was in Toledo in 1608 for the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist.

El Greco had made Toledo his home and lived very comfortably. His only son, Jorge Manuel, was born to a Spanish mother in 1578. In 1614, El Greco fell ill and died one month later. His son inherited the workshop and continued working for many years imitating his father's style.

El Greco's unique use of intense and unusual colors and light, preference for exceptionally elongated figures, and sometimes shocking use of imagination have led to much debate among scholars regarding Greco's art style and technique. His wholly distinct and individualistic style went against the traditional Baroque art form of the period which led the artist to be largely distained by the immediate generations following his death.

El Greco's art fell into obscurity until it was revisited and rediscovered in the 19th century. The haunting intensity of his paintings would slowly gain world acclaim among artists and scholars. Nowadays, El Greco is considered an extraordinary artist whose emotional style vividly expressed passion and was centuries ahead of the time.