El Greco (also known as Domenikos Theotokopoulos)
Born in Crete, painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos was better known as El Greco. The Renaissance-era artist was largely forgotten by the art world until his work was rediscovered and championed by artists and critics of the nineteenth century.
El Greco was born in 1641 on the island of Crete. After beginning his artistic training in Crete, he moved on to Venice and Rome before settling in the Spanish city of Toledo. In Rome, the painter espoused unpopular views on the artistic abilities of some of the most famous Renaissance painters. The artist had a single son, Jorge Manuel, in 1578. Jorge’s mother has been named as Jeronima de las Cuevas. The couple are not thought to have married, although she was named in his short will. He died in Toledo in 1614, leaving his possessions to his son and Jeronima.
He began his career as a Byzantine icon painter on the Venice-controlled island of Crete. He would later reject his early realism as his artistic expression entered imaginative periods. Few of his works prior to his move to Venice have survived. During his three-year stay in Venice, the artist completed a number of important works in the Renaissance style, including The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind. Still searching for realism in his work, he began to use perspective in his large paintings of Biblical scenes. Once he moved to Rome, he received no large-scale commissions, but he did earn a reputation as one of the best portrait and small-scale painters of the Renaissance period. He painted several celebrated portraits between 1590 and 1600, including Saint Jerome as Cardinal. In 1576, the artist settled in Toledo, where he found a group of intellectuals willing to commission religious altarpieces and large landscapes. He painted The View of Toledo, one of the best-known landscapes in sixteenth-century European art, soon after his arrival. His large altarpieces included Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple and The Burial of Count Orgaz, arguably his most famous work. Outside the influences of his Renaissance peers, he began to reject realism in earnest. By the start of the seventeenth century, his style turned to the mannerism for which he is best remembered.
- El Greco translates into English as “The Greek” and reflects his birthplace on the island of Crete.
- During his time in Rome, he publicly questioned the artistic ability of Michelangelo. The resulting backlash hastened his move from Rome to Toledo.
- His son Jorge Manuel appears in the famous paintingThe Burial of Count Orgaz.