El Greco Dominikos Theotocopoulos

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El Greco (1541-1614)

Dominikos Theotocopoulos was born in a small Cretan village outside Handax (Iraklion) . His family had left from Costantinople after the fall of the city in 1453. Very young he studied next to the famous Cretan icon painter Theofanes and other well known painters of the Byzantine tradition.

In 1566, Theotocopoulos moved to Venice because he felt that the Cretan environment didn’t satisfy his ambitions, and because he wanted to study the current of Renaissance and the great masters of the time. There, he met several Greek painters who had settled there before him. He found work in the workshop of Titian, who ran a Venetian school of Art. He also attended classes of sculpture, but because he didn’t feel so comfortable in Venice, he left for Rome in 1570, where his name started getting known. In the capital of art he was first called Il Greco (the Greek). When the pope Pius E` decided to cover the nudes of Capella Sixtene Theotocopoulos offered to do the work, but this turned the other Roman painters against him, something that made him leave the eternal city.

His next and final destination was Spain where he arrived in 1575. Initially he settled in Madrid and after two years he went to Toledo where he lived for 37 years and died. He married and had a son, Jorge Emanuelle, who also became a painter. Without cutting himself from his roots, he lived his mature period as a painter and developed a personal style. The influence of Byzantine and ancient Greek tradition was apparent in all his work. He made a large circle of students and friends despite the envy and hatred he faced from some Spanish painters who saw him as an intruder and a dangerous rival. Although he tried to secure the royal patronage, he had little success and never worked in the famous monastery of Escorial.

Near the end of his life he seems to have had financial difficulties. His workshop turned up a lot of replicas of his works, but his style was too personal to be followed. After his death his name went into oblivion, only to revive and give him a place in the pantheon of great masters at the end of the 19th century, thanks to the modernists who considered El Greco the father of modern Art.