Tuesday, September 24, 2013


El Greco  (1541-1614) was a well known Spanish Renaissance painter, sculptor, and architect.  He was an art who's style could not be categorized because of it's uniqueness.  His dramatic expressionistic flair confused his contemporaries but found great acceptance in the 20th century.

El Greco's signature became the extremely figure and brilliant pigmentation.  He was very unpopular with the generation of artists that came after his death.  They felt his work disrespected the principles of the baroque style that had come into vogue at the beginning of the 17th century.  His work was branded incomprehensible.  In the late 17th to early 18th centuries, his work garnered praise but was still criticized for it's unnatural style.

Scholarly writings about El Greco's aesthetics are interpreted mainly from notes found in the margins of books in his library.  He dismissed components of painting like measure and perspective.  To him, grace was the ultimate goal in art, but he felt it could not be achieved until the more complex aspects had been easily solved.

Color was the most significant and uncontrollable element of painting, according to El Greco.  Color took precedence over drawing.

As an architect and sculptor, El Greco took the task of decorating the chapel at the Hospital de la Caridad  with a wooden alter and sculptures.  Most important of his architectural projects was Santo Domingo el Antiguo  church and monastery.  For this endeavor he also created sculptures and paintings.  He cleverly incorporated architecture into his paintings and also created the frames for his works.

The dramatic approach of his painting and the heavy spiritual emotion is directly transferred to the viewer.  The less-than-well executed appearance of his work was a direct result of his efforts at creating a freedom of style.

The execution of elongated figures in his compositions, especially the sculptures he created for church altars, defined them as divine or otherworldly.  Another major innovation in El Greco's later works was an interweaving of form and space which served to unify the painting surface.  This technique would resurface centuries later in the works of Cezanne and Picasso.

Still another significant aspect of his work was his use of light.  Figures appeared to carry their own inward light or reflect the light coming from a source outside the painting.  "The Vision of Saint John" and the "Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse" are excellent examples of El Greco's powerful use of light, giving these works a mystical characteristic.

He also proved to be an accomplished portrait artist, by not only portraying his subject's features but by also capturing their character.  Many scholars agree that El Greco ranks high among portraitists along side the likes of Rembrandt and Tirian.

Image above titled "Pentacostes" by El Greco.

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