18
Mar

El Greco: a multimedia artist

Written on March 18, 2014 by Administrador de IE Blogs in Arts & Cultures & Societies

grecoVisitors to Toledo over the next three months will have a unique opportunity to assess the work, life and times of El Greco at the events marking the 400th anniversary of the death of the Crete-born painter.

Two cityscapes of the former Spanish capital set the stage for the main exhibition: one has been in Toledo since 1600; the other has traveled from New York’s MoMA. The city is instantly recognizable in both, its skyline little changed, although the surrounding landscape has been developed over the centuries.

This is the most complete exhibition of El Greco’s work ever mounted. It has cost around €2 million to put together, and features 76 pieces, 45 of which have been lent by 11 countries, though the majority have come from collections in the United States (Saint Peter and Saint Paul has yet to arrive from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg).

Aside from the Museo de la Santa Cruz, which is hosting the show, visitors to Toledo should also make pilgrimages to five other locations to round out the experience: the cathedral sacristy; the church of Santo Tomé, which houses El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz; the Santo Domingo convent, the painter’s first burial place; and the San José chapel, which is normally closed to the public; and of course the Museo del Greco. In total, around 125 of the 300 works he produced over his lifetime will be on view this year in Toledo.

“None of this would have been possible without the support of the private sphere, which has provided 85 percent of the budget,” says Gregorio Marañon, co-director of the Museo del Greco foundation. Most of the works have come from private collections rather than major galleries, he says.

Fernando Marías, the curator of the exhibition, says the image of El Greco that emerges from the exhibition is one viewed from today’s perspective: “An artist able to understand the invisible with the strands of the visible, an excellent painter who enjoys painting beautiful things beautifully, and above all, somebody who not only produced canvases, but who worked as an architect, sculptor, set designer and illustrator; the equivalent of today’s multimedia artist.” All of which, says Marías, makes El Greco arguably one of the most modern painters of the 16th century.

The El Greco of the show is very different to the picture of him that has been painted over the centuries as someone tormented by religious fervor, repressed, excessively pious, the very incarnation of dark Spain – and who supposedly suffered from astigmatism. “Why else would he have painted those long, drawn-out figures?” asks Marías sarcastically. “Well it certainly wasn’t because he had eye trouble. Many of these canvases were meant to be seen from below [which is how they have been hung in the exhibition]. Later on, he came to believe that tall people were more beautiful.”

Most of all, though, El Greco believed in himself: he never forgot his position as a foreigner (signing his pieces in Greek), and never once doubted his style, acquired over time and through the different phases of his life – his time in Italy, his final years in Toledo, and his days in Crete, which are represented in the exhibition by a number of extraordinary icons painted when he was still in his teens, along with the celebratedModena Triptych.

Continue reading in El País

Comments

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