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Domenico Theotokópoulos, called El Greco

Also known as
El Greco, Domenikos Theotokópoulos, Domenico Theotocopuli, El Greco, El Greco, (Domenico Theotocopuli), El Greco, Domenico Theotokopuli El Greco, Dominico Theotocopuli, called El Greco, Domenico Theocopuli, Doméniko Zeotokopoulos, Domingo Theotocópuli, Doménicos Theotocópoulos, Domenico Theoscopoli, Domenico Greco, Griego, Dominico Greco, 埃尔·格列柯
Date of birth
Date of death

Perhaps most recognized today for his distinctly elongated figures, El Greco developed a unique style that combined the Byzantine traditions of his native Crete; the innovations of the Renaissance masters of Venice and Rome, where he spent nearly a decade of his life; and the religious themes popular in Counter-Reformation Toledo, where the artist finally settled.

Despite his inability to secure the continued patronage of the the archbishopric of Toledo and King Philip II, the two most consequential of artistic patrons in Spain, the deeply ambitious El Greco carved out a local private clientele in Toledo. He found enthusiastic patronage and developed a flourishing career—as a portraitist, a creator of wildly popular religious images for private devotion in the home, and a decorator of important large-scale family altars and chapels.

El Greco’s signature figures are often portrayed with extraordinarily expressive faces and gestures and rendered with beautiful draperies painted in high-keyed colors. While his dramatic style fell out of favor after his death, it is now seen as a forerunner of many 19th- and 20th-century art movements.

A 2020 exhibition at the Art Institute will display the newly restored Assumption of the Virgin—arguably the museum’s most important Old Master painting—and will survey the career of a painter who continually reinvented his practice and developed his remarkable style by consciously maneuvering, in Crete, Venice, Rome, and finally Toledo, in pursuit of career success and a singular artistic vision.

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