Laocoon, El Greco's strange mythological artwork.
WE GO a little back in time to the Mannerists and the greatest of them all, El Greco, who with Velasquez and Goya, stands at the very peak of Spanish art.
Called El Greco because he was from Greece Crete to be precise his real name was Domenikos Theotocopoulos. He studied iconic art in Crete and in his 26th year, in 1568, went to Venice and studied under Titian.
The influence of Titian and Tintoretto are clear in his works of this period with the rich colours and free method of painting. After two years, he moved to Rome and fell under the spell of Michelangelo and the Mannerists. He adopted the principles of Mannerism with realism being replaced by an intense subjectivity, compressed space, bizarre colours and elongated figures.
El Greco moved to Toledo, the ecclesiastical capital of Spain, which was in the throes of the Counter Reformation. In the relative isolation of Spain, he intensified his style and his work took on a distinctive aspect with stretched out figures straining towards heaven and a cold, eerie bluish light.
El Espolio (The Spollation)
He created many altarpieces, including the famous El Espolio (Christ stripped of his garments). He was also an excellent portraitist and designed complete altar compositions working as architect, sculptor and painter. His late works include the strange mythological Laocoon; one of the reasons for the choice of subject matter was Toledo, supposed to be founded by the descendants of Trojans. After his death in 1614, El Greco slipped into oblivion, only to be resurrected in the late 19th Century.
His liberation of form, light and colour inspired artists from Velasquez and Sargent to Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock. His rediscovery resulted in a whole lot of myths, including one that suggested he was astigmatic, to explain the strange perspectives of his work.
Called the prophet of modern art, El Greco came to his own with development of Expressionism, the principles of which he had foreshadowed more than 150 years ago.
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