"The First Cubist" - El Greco

7 April 1614, the painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance, Doménikos Theotokópoulos, better known as El Greco, died at the age of 73 in Toledo.
“That the artists are excited - never more so - is no wonder, for here is an old master who is not merely modern, but actually appears a good many steps ahead of us, turning back to show us the way. Immortality if you like! But the public - what is it that makes them 'sit up' so surprisingly, one wonders. What makes this El Greco 'count' with them as surely no Old Master ever did within memory? First, I suspect, the extraordinary completeness of its realization. Even the most casual spectator, passing among pictures which retire discreetly behind their canvases, must be struck by the violent attack of these forms, by a relief so outstanding that by comparison the actual scene, the gallery and one's neighbours are reduced to the key of a Whistlerian Nocturne…” (Roger Fry)

El Greco’s “The Vision of Saint John, or The Opening of the Fifth Seal”, between 1608 – 1614

It doesn’t happen all too often that an artist of time-transcending calibre receives rare reviews and is duly forgotten after his death for centuries. And El Greco was anything but a passing fad. It must have been the sheer wonder of his audience as well as the enthusiasm of his sponsors about the completely unconventional amalgam of Eastern and Western European art that was far more than the sum of its parts. Trained as an icon painter in the Byzantine tradition back home on Crete, Dominikos was 27 when he moved to Venice, learning from Bassano, Tintoretto and Titian and in his mid-thirties when he finally arrived in Spain where he, now dubbed El Greco, the Greek, found a home away from home in Toledo for the rest of his life, the city he would glorify as a Heavenly Jerusalem in his landscapes. Besides portraying his patrons or would-be patrons, his sujet was of a religious nature, cardinally, with a whole new approach on imagery, colours, pigments and finally on perspectives.

El Greco: "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" (1586 - 1588)

Pioneering the drama of Baroque art, El Greco, living quite the high life for a court painter, nevertheless left a pile of debts after his death and was duly forgotten until the Romantics rediscovered him as the exceptional artist he was, no wonder, since he embodied nearly everything they admired, the genius, gifted, mysterious, mad, almost Byronic, inspiring painters from Delacroix to Degas and van Gogh until the 20th century began to transpose El Greco into modern art in earnest. Picasso called him the first Cubist, while the painters belonging to “Der Blaue Reiter” and later German expressionists were simply overwhelmed by his works and not only visual artists were enthusiastic –El Greco became the quintessential Greek painter for the Greeks and an epitome of Spanish art for the Spanish.

El Greco: "View of Toledo" (1596 - 1600)

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