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El Greco and his most important works

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El Greco and his most important works

El Greco (1541-1614) He was a painter of Cretan origin, a master in the art of late Byzantine icons, Venetian painting, and Spanish mannerism. However, it was in the execution of the latter style, the mannerism, and in a specific place, Toledo, where El Greco obtained the state of maturity and genius from him. In this lesson from a TEACHER we have prepared a selection of the most important works of El Greco to understand the historical importance of this enigmatic character.

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Index

  1. Who was El Greco?
  2. The Annunciation (c. 1576)
  3. Adoration in the Name of Jesus (c. 1579)
  4. The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (c. 1586-1588)
  5. The Laocoon, c. 1610-1614

Who was El Greco?

Born on the Greek island of Crete, Doménikos Theotokópoulosn acquired his nickname during his stay in Italy (1567-1577). Despite Doménikos's efforts to sign his most important works with his birth name, it was there that his fellow intellectuals They nicknamed him "Lo Greco" and, later, that nickname would travel with him to Toledo, where,

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after an effect of Castilianization, his nickname became the now well-known "El Greco".

It is curious to think that, in his lifetime, El Greco never achieved the desired fortune. Although in Greece he managed to be a renowned master of late Byzantine icons, the hypotheses suggest that, in Italy, his strong personality did not help him build a good reputation among his patrons and colleagues of the guild; causing the lack of large-scale commissions.

And in Toledo, his ambitions were simply truncated by the vagaries of history; because to the monarchical changes of the moment, they were accompanied abrupt aesthetic changes, which prevented, among other hypotheses, the entry of him as a painter in the court of Felipe II.

El Greco and his most important works - Who was El Greco?

Image: Slideplayer

The Annunciation (c. 1576)

As we advanced earlier in this lesson on El Greco and his most important works, Doménikos had a complex and disparate formation. Having been trained in the early Byzantine Cretan tradition, once settled in Venice, he did not hesitate to assimilate Renaissance painting from Veneto and be influenced by the color of Venetian masters such as Titian or Tintorretto.

El Greco's arrival in Venice coincided with the moment when Venetian painting abandoned all sense of order and classicist balance, to welcome the most complex mannerist inventions.

Despite being a work created in Rome - an artistic center with stylistic variations and rivalries with respect to Venice-, The Annunciation-today exhibited in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum- is a wonderful example of El Greco's mastery when it comes to assimilating the different pictorial theories of the moment and that is why we consider it one of his most important works.

The work represents clearly and without iconographic retouching the Biblical scene from The Annunciation, moment in which the Archangel Saint Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that in her womb he will carry the Messiah. This painting is considered one of the latest versions that El Greco painted the subject and is precisely the most manifest version of the process of assimilation of colors and light in the artist's Venetian manner.

In the figures we can trace the influence of Veronese, while through light and the use of colors we see Titian's printing press. Now, the handling of the entire composition is undoubtedly that of a teacher creating his own language.

El Greco and his most important works-The Annunciation (c. 1576)

Image: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Adoration in the Name of Jesus (c. 1579)

Also known as The dream of Philip II or Allegory of the Holy League, the play Adoration in the name of Jesus corresponds to the first Toledo period of El Greco and heralds his entry into the age of his creative maturity.

The plurality of titles with which the work is usually called, show the discrepancy between scholars when assigning a specific iconographic theme. Likewise, there are also several doubts about the origin of the order. And, although the work is preserved in the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, the former residence of the Spanish royal family, it is not clear that King Philip II commissioned the work to the Cretan painter - as he did with The Martyrdom of Saint Maurice-.

In reality, it is believed that the work was created on the occasion of a royal visit to Toledo and that Domenikos took the opportunity to present himself to the Spanish monarch through the canvas. However, it is also known that his works did not like the monarch and they ended up truncating his desire to become a court painter.

Adoration in the name of Jesus is a work of vital importance within El Greco's career, since demonstrates absolute mastery regarding the creation of large-scale works and a bold control over the presence of multiple characterss on the same canvas, some illustrious people, such as Philip II himself, Pope Pius V or the Doge of Venice Alvise Mocenigo.

The composition of the work is thus divide into three scopeyes, the Underworld, the earthly and the heavenly. The latter is crowned by the schematized form of the Latin name Jesus Christ Man Savior (IHS) and surrounded by angels forming a circle; while in the earthly, these illustrious characters of his contemporary history appear and in the Underworld the Leviathan is its center.

In short, it is a characteristic work of El Greco, in which his notions of Venetian painting begin to move towards a mannerist style of its own.

El Greco and his most important works - The Adoration in the Name of Jesus (c. 1579)

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (c. 1586-1588)

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz it is without a doubt the most important work of El Greco, as well as a unique piece of the History of Universal Art. As we have already commented in this lesson from a PROFESSOR, El Greco and his most important worksThroughout his life, El Greco emigrated to different cities and in each one of them he was assimilating elements of the autochthonous plastic culture.

But it was not until this point in his career and more specifically, on this canvas, The Burial of Count Orgaz, where the artist was able to capture in a heterogeneous and understandable way all the plastic skills of him.

The subject of the canvas is well known, a miracle that occurred in the Parish of Santo Tomé in Toledo. Thus, it is a purely theological work, whose iconography is based on the Toledo oral tradition. But, the audacity of the work has nothing to do with the ordered theme, but with the fusion of medieval elements typical of the late Cretan Byzantine style, such as the disposition of the characters, with the most pure mannerists of the Italian tradition, as he could exemplify the supremacy of color in front of the line and the dramatic movements of his characters.

Thus, in a two-dimensional composition –so often exploited by the Byzantine tradition-, El Greco presents us through the so recognizable elongated figures of him, contemporary marbled characters. Each of his figures is individualized by means of his own psyche and meekly representing the role assigned by the artist. The foreshortenings are implausible and their acid and bright colors, capable of marking different focuses of attention.

Another boldness is the presentation of two spaces in the work: the lower end corresponds to the earthly, natural world that mourns the dead; at the upper end El Greco unleashed his creative sense, managing to create an idealized space that responded only to his creative nature and would lead him to be the universal artist that today we consider to be it is.

El Greco and his most important works-The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (c. 1586-1588)

The Laocoon, c. 1610-1614.

The Laocoon It is a late work by El Greco. Created in its more mature period and under an absolutely secular conception of art, the work was a direct cause of the rediscovery of the artist three centuries after his death.

As we had already advanced, after his death El Greco fell into the deepest oblivion. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that, by the hand of artists such as Manet, Cézanne, Picasso, Pollock and so many intellectuals linked to them, it acquired the consideration of forerunner of modern art and rose like forerunner of the avant-garde art.

In 1506 one of the most important discoveries in the History of Art took place, the Hellenistic sculptural group, The Laocoon and his sons. His discovery in Rome altered every aesthetic conception of art known in the Western world, causing the appearance of various styles based on the exaggeration of the gesture. The theme of mythological origin, narrated the punishment imposed by the gods on Laocoon and his children.

We are thus faced with a thematic rarity in El Greco's artistic production, since, until now, he had always created religious works or portraits.

El Greco and his most important works-The Laocoon, c. 1610-1614

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