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Home / Great Artists / E / Domenikos Theotokopoulos El Greco / Biography
Biography Domenikos Theotokopoulos El Greco

Domenikos Theotokopoulos El Greco Biography


1541-1614

Greek (Active in Spain) Mannerist Painter

El Greco (medieval Castilian for "the Greek") is the name by which Δομίνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος Dominikos Theotokopulos (1541, Fodele?, Candia (modern Iraklion), Crete - April 7, 1614, Toledo, Spain), a Cretan Greek, painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish school. He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagoric pigmentation.
He was a painter in Crete and first trained as an icon painter. At the age of twenty-six he journeyed to Venice where he is said to have studied western-style art under Titian and Tintoretto. He spent almost two years there before moving to Rome. In Rome, El Greco was influenced by the mannerist style as practiced by followers of Michelangelo. Mannerism appealed to him because of the talent and intelligence and virtuosity required to create the images. In 1577 he emigrated to Toledo - at the time the religious capital of Spain - where he produced his mature works. The Christian doctrines greatly influenced his life and his artwork, leading him to a successful career as a painter of altarpieces and portraits. Some works include The Annunciation, Laocoon, and The Repentent Peter. Many of El Greco's works are on display at Madrid's Museo del Prado; however others can be found in other places such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
El Greco referred to himself not as a craftsman or painter, but rather as an artist-philosopher because he was guided by his underlying religious principles. His works are all very intense to the viewer. The strong spiritual emotion transfers from painting directly to the audience. A fantastic example of his religious fervor is in the painting, "Saint Francis in Prayer." His strange art has had many wonder if he was insane or suffered from eye problems, such as astigmatism, but in actuality it simply reflected the strong Christian influence in Spain during the time.
After his death, El Greco's work fell into relative obscurity. It was not until the late nineteenth century that artists and critics renewed interest in his highly individual manner of expression. El Greco's liberation of form, light and color inspired artists such as Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock in their efforts to transform the art of painting of the 20th century.
The Burial of Count Orgaz was painted by El Greco in 1586. Based on a 14th-century legend, it is an expressive work, full of religious fervour."El Greco sought to convey the essential or universal meaning of the subject through a process of redefinition and reduction. In Toledo, he accomplished this by abandoning the Renaissance emphasis on the observation and selection of natural phenomena. Instead he responded to Byzantine and sixteenth-century Mannerist art in which images are conceived in the mind. Space is perceived in the imagination rather than misused; light is incandescent, fitful and unreal; colours are pure, luminous and unearthly; figures are elongated, energised and dematerialised. All are illuminated and quickened by God's Grace."