Van Gogh •
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Domenico Theotocopuli, the last and most inspired of the Mannerists, was born in Crete, where he received his early training in the Byzantine style.
Theotocopuli is presumed to have left Crete in about 1560 for Venice where he probably studied with Titian as well as some considerable contact with Tintoretto. He then went to Rome where he saw the work of Michelangelo and Raphael, and to Parma where he saw Correggio's paintings. In 1577, he went to Toledo and settled there for the rest of his life, receiving from the Spaniards the name "El Greco," the Greek, by which he is known even today.
But El Greco had already found his own style by 1577. It combined a Byzantine richness with a mystical spirit, Mannerist distortion, and warm Venetian
coloring. An intensely spiritual inner vision burns through his portraits, his religious works, and his landscapes.
His figures are elongated, the heads narrow, the hands long and slim, the limbs lean: and each figure seems almost
bloodless. The effect is dramatic but it is a drama of the spirit rather than of the flesh. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes exalted, the effect reflects both the drama of the Counter-Reformation and the austerity of the reign of Philip II. Arguably the most familiar of El Greco's masterpieces, his "The View of Toledo", is an expressionistic view of the city seen from the plains below, with its craggy ramparts bathed in an eerie light coming from a thunderous sky. His most ambitious and perhaps greatest painting, "The Burial of Count Orgaz", executed for the church of Santo Tome, is painted on two levels divided by the assembled heads of the burial party and rising like a fire toward a central figure of Christ. In this as in his other works, he represents the natural phenomena of a tempestuous world that is reaching for, or is acted upon, by an even more tempestuous heaven. Out of these elements El Greco created a truly national Spanish art, which was not followed by his successors but has been extremely influential upon modern Western art.