To say that El Greco, painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance, is an important figure in art history is an understatement. The artist, who was born in 1541 and died in 1614, made huge artistic contributions to the world and even challenged Michelangelo’s work. Below you will find 5 fun facts about El Greco that can be used in the classroom or simply for your own personal enrichment.
5 Fun Facts About Artist El Greco
There are dozens of amazing facts about artist El Greco that will intrigue art lovers. Here are just 5…
- “El Greco” was not the artist’s birth name — he was born “Doménikos Theotokópoulos.” “El Greco” simply means “The Greek.” While the artist was widely known as El Greco as he rose to notoriety, he typically signed his full birth name to his art in Greek letters. The Encyclopaedia Britannica said El Greco was “a name he acquired when he lived in Italy, where the custom of identifying a man by designating country or city of origin was a common practice. The curious form of the article (El), however, may be the Venetian dialect or more likely from the Spanish.”
- Despite being Greek, El Greco was a devout Catholic. So were many other citizens of the Kingdom of Candia, which was his place of birth. The Kingdom of Candia (Crete) was a part of the Republic of Venice at the time. It was home to Greco until he was around 20 years years old, at which time he migrated to Venice to study with Titian, the most renowned painter of his day. The two major religions of the Kingdom of Candia were Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy. Although the painter was Greek, he was a self-proclaimed devout Catholic. Some scholars believe he converted from Greek Orthodoxy to become part of the Catholic Cretan minority. Even if El Greco hadn’t claimed to be Catholic in his last will and testament, his artwork reflects the religious climate of Roman Catholic Spain and thus would have been a giveaway.
El Greco was a Mannerist. According to Wikipedia, mannerism “is a style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520 and lasted until about end of the 16th century in Italy, when the Baroque style began to replace it. Key aspects of Mannerism in El Greco include the jarring ‘acid’ palette, elongated and tortured anatomy, irrational perspective and light, and obscure and troubling iconography.” (Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci were Mannerists.) While most of El Greco’s art was done in the Mannerist style, he was an incredibly unique artist. Wikipedia also said, “El Greco has been characterized by modern scholars as an artist so individual that he belongs to no conventional school.”
- El Greco was pushed out of Rome by artists loyal to Michelangelo. In his article The Reluctant Disciple,
The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones said that El Greco “was hounded out of Rome by Italian painters horrified by his verbal attacks on their hero, Michelangelo. El Greco had scathingly criticised Michelangelo’s painting The Last Judgment, on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. This cocky young Cretan, who had been introduced around Rome as a follower of Titian, said he could replace The Last Judgment with something just as good, and more Christian.” This was an instance where humility would have served the talented artist well. While “being hounded out of Rome” wasn’t likely a pleasant way to go, El Greco migrated to Spain in 1576 (he had moved from Venice to Rome in 1570) and made the most of his time there until his death in 1614.
- El Greco found great success in Spain after he moved there in 1576. While in Spain El Greco painted
some of his most beloved pieces such as St. Sebastian (1578), St. Peter in Tears (1582) and The Burial of Count Orgaz (1588). Biography stated, “The Burial of Count Orgaz, especially, encapsulates El Greco’s art in that it depicts a visionary experience, transcending the known and revealing that which exists in the spiritual imagination. One of El Greco’s most celebrated works, it features a dichotomy of heaven and earth, the burial and the spiritual world waiting above, and it took his artistic vision beyond what he had previously been able to accomplish.”
On April 7, 1614, El Greco died in Spain. According to Biography he passed away unappreciated by the art world which wouldn’t acknowledge him as a master for 250 years. Today he is known as one of the most influential painters to have ever lived. It is also believed by art scholars that El Greco influenced artists like Picasso, as well as writers like Rainer Maria Rilke and Nikos Kazantzakis.
Make Art Like El Greco
Would you love to produce works of art as sensational as those El Greco created? If so, you can! All you need is…
- A passion for art
- A love for the European Mannerism style of art
- A Windows PC
Do you possess these 3 things? If so, request a FREE trial of SegPlay PC, our digital paint-by-number computer game.
SegPlay PC combines the newest technology with the old-fashioned paint-by-number technique to create an addicting pastime. The great news is that this computer game is a good addiction, challenging your mind and stimulating your creativity.
SegPlay PC gamifies art and gives art enthusiasts another channel through which to express their love of art. El Greco fans will adore this El Greco digital paint-by-number pattern set. After you have downloaded a FREE trial of SegPlay PC, be sure to treat yourself to the El Greco paint-by-number SegPlay PC pattern set.
The SegPlayPC pattern set for El Greco contains 25 patterns created from his most well-known paintings filled with elongated figures and iconic symbols. There are many portraits of…
- A Friar
- Antonio Covarrubias
- Julije Klovic
- An unknown Lady
- A self portrait
Also included in this set are his numerous religious interpretations:
- The Spoliation
- The Holy Family
- Via Crucis
- Saint John the Evangelist
- Apostles Peter and Paul
- The Repentant Peter
- A landscape (View of Toledo)
Take a closer look at the El Greco SegPlay PC pattern here.
Are you a huge fan of El Greco’s art? Why or why not? We would love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts in the “comments” section below.
Read more Segmation blog post about Mannerist artists:
Did Michelangelo Invent Paint-by-Numbers?
Happy Birthday, Leonardo Da Vinci!
The Creative, Artistic and Inventive Mind of Leonardo da Vinci
Be an Artist in 2 minutes with Segmation SegPlay® PC (see more details here)
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