El Greco

Will Murray

The Life of El Greco

  • Born in 1541 in Candia, on the island of Crete in Greece,
  • Born as "Domenikos Theotokoploulos"


  • Because of Venice's control of his home, Greco had traveled to Venice as early as 1560, or as late as 1566; the exact year unknown.
  • In Venice he had coined the name "Il Greco", which translates to "The Greek" because of his preposterously long name.
  • In 1570, El Greco traveled to Rome, where he studied many famous painters of the time.
  • Greco's work made in Rome still represents his Venetian style, as well as his knowledge and application of artistic and architectural styles of the well esteemed artists of the time.
  • In 1576, El Greco had left for Spain; arriving in 1577.
  • It is possible that El Greco had visited Venice before leaving for Spain. Whether with the intention to stay or not, he was rumored to leave because of a plague.
  • El Greco had settled in Toledo, Spain, where he had perfected the name he is remembered by to "El Greco."
  • In Toledo, Greco had created some of his most famous works.
  • Greco had a son named Jorge Manuel, to a woman he never married.
  • El Greco had died in Toledo, on April 7, 1614



  • El Greco had acquired his initial artistic education in his home. He was learned in the Byzantine style of painting, however he showed early interest in more ambitious concepts and different styles
  • In Venice, Greco had acquainted himself with the works of people such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Jacopo Bassano
  • Still in Venice, El Greco had drawn immense influence from the Venetian artists he had learned from. So much so, that his paintings had become noticeably Venetian in style- sporting the deep colors and jubilant movement that it's known for.
  • By the time he had traveled to Rome, El Greco had developed most of his artistic skills and knowledge, so it is not surprising that he hadn't drawn as much influence from there.
  • He did however befriend and learn from Giulio Clovio, a miniaturist.
  • An immensely important influence on El Greco's artistic education is the study of Michelangelo and Raphael, the main reason for his new and improved sense of color and the human form.



  • El Greco lead a very eager life, as displayed by his travels and large development of his artistic style
  • Arguably, Greco may have been a very stubborn or vain man, backed by his rather famous payment dispute over his painting El Espolio. He had also been rumored to have left Rome in quite a hurry, based on his supposed critique of Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel!
  • El Greco was undoubtedly quite religious, Christianity being the most prominent theme in his work.
  • El Greco displayed great appreciation of literature and culture, being keen in Greek, Latin, Spanish, and Italian literature.
  • Greco was in possession of a fantastic library, which displayed his great interest in architecture.
  • Along with his group of close friends, El Greco is also remembered as one of the most prominent humanists of the time.



  • El Greco had gained a distinct type of painting, drawing from his vast travels and diverse influences.
  • Christianity was the main focus of his paintings
  • He was skilled in portraits because of his personal and emotion style, mannerism, and realistic backgrounds
  • He displayed a mastery of color, providing deep and vibrant pictures
  • His interpretation of mannerism is very unique in the strange way that he incorporates layers, depth, and placement.
  • El Greco had acted almost like a primitive expressionist, centuries before its prominence, through his display of form and emotion.
  • His expressionistic style is also supportive of his humanism.
  • El Greco also dabbled in architecture and sculpture. He often created beautiful altars and used his paintings as means of architecture.
  • Some of his most famous works include El Espolio, View of Toledo, The Burial of Count Orgaz, and the altars of Santo Domingo el Antiguo.



  • El Greco had drawn patronage from many churches, which was a good thing because the prominence of churches allowed his travels.
  • Philip II had also provided for El Greco's work, after his attention had been drawn by Greco's work on the altars at Santo Domingo el Antiguo.
  • As his popularity had become increasingly apparent, especially in Spain, El Greco had received immense patronage from Toledo's aristocratic citizens.


El Espolio

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  • 1577-1579
  • Painted for the High Altar Sacristy, where it is still on display
  • One of El Greco's first paintings in Spain
  • This is the painting that caused a payment dispute between El Greco and the cathedral he was patronized by.
  • Techniques used are El Greco's daring use of color and expression. He also captures the human form in the form of the crowd and soldiers. The mannerism that was so prominent at the time is shown through Greco's portrayal of depth especially in the crowd. The painting is very emotional and religious. El Greco almost taps into expressionism before it was even created; including all sorts of little bits and pieces that really need to be examined and thought about before any message or meaning is shown.
  • I find the mystery in this painting quite intriguing. El Greco does a fantastic job in making the viewer really think when they look at El Espolio. Why is the crowd bearing arms if they're there to mourn Christ? What could the geyser-like thing in the background represent? Questions like these are brought to mind when viewing this painting. The detail and creativity in the painting is also very respectable.


Humanism- El Greco displays his expertise in portrayal of natural human beauty, shape and form. The expressions, movements, and even creases on clothes are very realistic, especially those in the foreground.


Secularism- What El Greco does with his style of painting is quite contradicting to that of the time period. El Greco had stuck strictly to religious paintings, just as art had been like in the medieval ages. El Greco's contributions to the church may have given it more power at the time- working against secularistic ideals. El Greco, however, does manage to find balance by incorporating architecture, human form and emotions, and some varying themes (aside from Christianity) into his paintings.


Capitalism- The skirmish over payment of this painting shows how capitalism was used by even the church, and caused some problems from time to time.

View of Toledo

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The Burial of Count Orgaz

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Works Cited

"The Burial of Count Orgaz - Reproduction - www.el-greco-foundation.org - Large." El Greco - The complete works. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.el-greco-foundation.org/The-Burial-of-Count-Orgaz-large.html>.


"The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio) 1577 79 - Reproduction - www.el-greco-foundation.org - Large." El Greco - The complete works. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.el-greco-foundation.org/The-Disrobing-of-Christ-(El-Espolio)-1577-79-large.html>.


"El Greco." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 9 Jan. 2013.


"Greco, El (1541-1614)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 9 Jan. 2013.


"View of Toledo 1597 99 - Reproduction - www.el-greco-foundation.org - Large." El Greco - The complete works. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2013. <http://www.el-greco-foundation.org/View-of-Toledo-1597-99-large.html>.