El Greco

"The Greek"

Early Life

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, was born in 1541 on the island of Crete in Greece. In his early career (as early as 1560), El Greco travels from Crete to Venice to Rome frequently. In 1576 he leaves for Spain because of a plague in Venice. He goes to Madrid and then spends the rest of his life settled in Toledo, Spain where most of his life is spent.

Education and Training in Art

Little is known about El Greco's early life as a child, but it is assumed that he had a good education because of his extraordinary language and reading skill. He learned the basics of painting as a child as well. El Greco, as a young painter, traveled to Venice and spent three or four years studying. It was said he studied in Venice with the great Renaissance painter, Titian.


Youth Lifestyle:

A lot of pieces of El Greco's life is unknown, but mostly his life as a youth. It is known that he did not come from a poor family, and was well educated. He was of a Greek Orthodox religion, and this was reflected in many of his early paintings.

Career Lifestyle:

El Greco was a culturally sophisticated artist, for he was familiar with Greek, Latin, Italian, and Spanish literature. Studying and becoming familiar with many subjects and ideas was a big part of his life. Throughout his painting career, El Greco was starting to become a more naturalist artist instead of a religious painter.

Type of Art

El Greco created many paintings, and is known as "one of the most original artists of his age" by a USA Today critic. El Greco was "celebrated for his highly expressive and visionary religious paintings and psychologically compelling portraits." Also stated by a USA Today critic.

Some Examples:


El Greco studied and learned from many great artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. However, there was no specific person who patronized him and his work. El Greco was a very studious and independent painter.

Humanism and Skepticism

Humanism is very closely linked to El Greco because when he became a successful painter, he bought a library and filled it with books of many subjects, especially philosophy. Having this inventory of books shows his humanistic interests. El Greco annotated many of these books. He wrote down his own philosophical curiosities, comments and questions which links El Greco to skepticism as well.

View of Toledo

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Renaissance Work

The name of these painting is View of Toledo. El Greco created this painting in 1599. You can see this painting on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New york.


El Greco's View of Toledo is a painting part of the very rare Renaissance genre of landscape. This painting differs greatly from most of the other Renaissance paintings because most of the paintings in this time were portraits or based on religion. This painting is very dark in color, dark sky, dark grass and trees, and a gloomy castle. The castle is very large and complex. This castle does not look like a typical piece of Renaissance architecture because it is non symmetrical and very plain. There is also a river the winds in between the hills. One last interesting things I found is if you zoom into the very bottom right corner, you can see El Greco's signature in Greek.


In this painting, El Greco shows the view of the city of Toledo, Spain which is where he lived for many years of his life until he died. View of Toledo is significant because El Greco very rarely will paint just landscape paintings. This painting is one of very few paintings in the landscape genre. This is also showing El Greco's shifting from religious based paintings to more nature based and naturalist paintings. El Greco is said to have used amazing colors in this painting.

Scientific Naturalism

View of Toledo is most closely linked to scientific naturalism. It escapes the typical idea of a humanistic Renaissance portrait, and portrays the rare genre of landscape to the Renaissance and "knew knowledge." Scientific naturalism is the idea of finding new knowledge and becoming more involved with the outdoors just as El Greco has done in his painting. View of Toledo has the newer genre of landscape and is of the outdoors. It has a sky with dark ominous clouds, and hills with trees and grass that show the naturalism part of the painting.

Why is it interesting to me?

I found this painting to be very interesting because it did not look like the typical Renaissance painting. I liked it because it was unique and different. I saw this painting among all of El Greco's other paintings and this one stood out the most to me because it was not a portrait, but it was of a landscape. There are very few Renaissance landscape paintings and View of Toledo seemed to be the most interesting to me.


"El Greco." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in

Context. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

"El Greco." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 64. Detroit: Gale, 2005.Biography in Context. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

Greco, El . View of Toledo. 1599. Metropolitan, Toledo, Spain. Artstor.org. Web. .

Greco, El. "Remote Login to Artstor digital Library." Remote Login to Artstor digital Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. <http://library.artstor.org/library/secure/ViewImages?id=4iFCeTg4NCciJy8laCt2KngqVXYsf1hzcQ%3D%3D&userId=hDRGcjwn&zoomparams=>.