Castile–León and Castile–La Mancha Feature

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El Greco: the Titan of Toledo

"Crete gave him his life, and brushes; Toledo, a better land, where he begins with Death to attain Eternity." With these words, the Toledan poet Fray Hortensio Paravicino paid homage to his friend El Greco—and to the symbiotic connection between El Greco and his adopted city of Toledo. El Greco's intensely individual and expressionist style—elongated and sometimes distorted figures, charged colors, and a haunting mysticism—was seen as strange and disturbing, and his work remained largely neglected until the late 19th century, when he found wide acclaim and joined the ranks of Velazquez and Goya as a master of Spanish painting.

Born Domenikos Theotokópoulos on the island of Crete, El Greco ("The Greek") received his artistic education and training in Italy and then moved to Spain around 1577, lured in part by the prospect of painting frescoes for the royal monastery of El Escorial. King Felipe II, however, rejected El Greco's work for being too unusual. It was in Toledo that El Greco came into his own, creating many of his greatest works and honing his singular style and unique vision. He remained here until his death in 1614. A yearlong festival throughout 2014 celebrates the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death.

The master painter immortalized the city and its citizens. His masterpiece The Burial of Count Orgaz, which hangs in Toledo's Chapel of Santo Tomé, pays tribute to Toledan society. Perhaps the most famous rendering of Toledo is El Greco's dramatic View of Toledo (which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City), in which the cityscape crackles with a sinister energy underneath a stormy sky—El Greco's other famous landscape, View and Plan of Toledo, can be seen at Toledo's Casa y Museo de El Greco.

Updated: 11-2013

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