Hi everyone! This week I wanted to talk about El Greco. He was a late Renaissance and early Baroque painter. He is often referred or known as a Spanish artist, even though he was born in Crete. His full name is Doménikos Theotokópoulos, and his nickname, El Greco, which stands for “The Greek.”
At the age of twenty-six, El Greco decided to go to Venice and learn the Venetian Renaissance style, which during his lifetime included the Manneristic style. He even spent some time in Rome. When he was thirty-six years old, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he created many of the amazing artworks that are best known by him today.
To begin with, I wanted to discuss his painting called Christ Carrying the Cross created in 1577 to 1587.
Here, as the title states, we are presented with a beautiful painting of Christ carrying the cross. This painting is consumed with the figure of Christ. The background is cloudy, which further emphasizes the importance of Christ in the center. This painting is very typical of the Manneristic art style because the figure is the main focus; additionally, Christ’s body is slightly elongated to further highlight the significance of this event and figure.
What I think is unique about this painting is the emotion that it brings out. If you look closely, Christ’s eyes are glimmering and sparkling. When I first saw this painting at the MET, I remember the intensity of the sparking eyes that almost made the painting look real (it was awesome!). In this way, El Greco is expressing the pure Passion of Christ in the way Christ’s eyes glimmer with emotion and stare up at the sky. Additionally, Christ carrying the Cross was a very brutal and painful moment for Christ, but El Greco chose to depict the meaning behind Christ’s carrying the Cross (which was the salvation of sin) rather than the pain that was expressed during this time.
Another painting I would like to discuss is called Agony in the Garden created in 1590.
As the title states, this painting depicts the agony of the Garden, which was when Christ was praying to God in the garden, with three apostles, after the Last Supper and before the Passion occurred. In the middle of the painting, we can see Christ praying in a pink cloth and blue drape (the same design that is seen in the painting above). He is in the midst of talking to God and accepting that the Passion must be done, and in the left corner, we see an angel coming down towards Christ. The angel seems to be holding a chalice, which might be further emphasizing the need for Christ to go through with the Passion. We can also see a small glimmer of light coming down from the left onto the figure of Christ.
El Greco placed the three sleeping apostles in the left corner (Christ’s right corner), under the appearing angel. He also placed the approaching Roman soldiers and Judas in the right corner (Christ’s left corner). We can see the full moon that is often present in this subject matter. Still following the manneristic style, El Greco does not fully create a concrete, visible landscape. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of the figures that are involved in this.