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Home / Impressions / Great Cretan Personalities / El Greco
El Greco

The most unusual painter of 16th century Europe, El Greco combined the strict Byzantine style of his homeland Crete with influences he received during his studies in Venice. Born in Candia in 1541, Doménikos Theotokópoulos, as his real name was, was an artist of unequalled talent.

Doménikos Theotokópoulos left Crete in 1566 and headed to Venice, where he studied with / became a pupil of the great Italian painter of those days, Titian. From here he went to Rome in 1570, where he met Luis Castilla, a Spanish ecclesiastic; Luis’ brother Diego would become Doménikos’ patron in Toledo, Spain. It was there that his art would mature and where he would obtain a personal style that assured his popularity.

An intensely spiritual inner vision burns through his portraits, his religious works and his landscapes. His figures are elongated, the heads narrow, hands long and slim, the limbs lean; each figure seems almost bloodless. The effect is dramatic, but it is a drama of the spirit rather than of the flesh.

El Greco (the Greek), as the Spaniards later called him, did not have followers. After his death in 1614, his art was forgotten for 300 years, until it was rediscovered by modern artists like Picasso and Jackson Pollock in their odyssey to change the art of painting in the 20th century. Two of his works can be seen in Heraklio's Historical Museum today: The Baptism of Christ (1567) and Monastery of St. Catherine beneath Mt. Sinai (1570-’72).