El Greco (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Adapting principles he learned in Venice and Rome, El Greco achieved a unique artistic style and became Spain’s greatest religious artist and one of the world’s foremost portrait painters.
El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) was born in Candia, Crete, in 1541. Of his family, little is known, except that his father’s name was Jorghi and one brother was named Manoussos. Since his knowledge of languages and his wide intellectual interests suggest a good education, El Greco’s biographers have assumed that his Greek family belonged to the middle class. During his boyhood, Crete was a center of Byzantine culture and Greek Orthodox religion. Art on the island was primarily church related, depicting saints in the somber manner of orthodox iconography. Intended to inspire devotion, it often features stereotypical human forms against a dark and undeveloped background. From a surviving document, it is known that by age twenty-five El Greco was a practicing artist.
For unknown reasons, El Greco left Crete, probably in 1567, for Venice, where he continued his study of painting. There he encountered the warm, rich coloration and carefully balanced perspective of the Venetian school. Biographers have surmised that he became a member of Titian’s workshop. In Venice, he adopted the nickname “Il Greco” (the Greek), later changing the article to the Spanish El.
(The entire section is 2245 words.)
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