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Doménikos Theotokópoulos (Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος)

" I hold the imitation of color to be the greatest difficulty of art.”

Doménikos Theotokópoulos (Greek: Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος [ðoˈminikos θeotoˈkopulos], 1541 – 7 April 1614), most widely known as El Greco (pronounced: [el ˈɣɾeko]; Spanish for “The Greek”), was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. The nickname “El Greco” refers both to his Greek origin and Spanish citizenship. The artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos), often adding the word Κρής (Krēs, “Cretan”).

“It was a great moment. A pure righteous conscience stood on one tray of the balance, an empire on the other, and it was you, man’s conscience, that tipped the scales. This conscience will be able to stand before the Lord as the Last Judgement and not be judged. It will judge, because human dignity, purity and valor fill even God with terror … Art is not submission and rules, but a demon which smashes the moulds … Greco’s inner-archangel’s breast had thrust him on savage freedom’s single hope, this world’s most excellent garret.”
— Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco

El Greco was born around 1541 in Crete, which was then part of the Republic of Venice. In his mid-twenties, he traveled to Venice and studied under Titian, who was the most renowned painter of his day. Around age 35, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life, producing his best-known paintings. His works from this period are seen as precursors of both Expressionism and Cubism. He is remembered chiefly for his elongated, tortured figures, often religious in nature, the style of which baffled his contemporaries but helped establish his reputation in the years to come.

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Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens:

Temporary exhibition:“Domenikos Theotokopoulos before El Greco”. A religious icon by Domenikos Theotokopoulos presenting the Dormition of the Virgin.

This icon from Syros is the most artistically complete work to have survived from Theotokopoulos’ Cretan period. Various Western elements (Metastasis of the Mother of God, the Holy Ghost, candlesticks) have been introduced into the Byzantine iconographic style. The figures are naturally rendered and modeled and move easily in space, while the color and light serve to unite the earthly and the heavenly. The scene is transcendental and realistic in equal measures. The work was probably the last of the three surviving works from Theotokopoulos’ Cretan period to have been painted. This hypothesis is reinforced by the artist’s signature that reads “displayed by Domenikos Theotokopoulos” instead of the earlier “By the hand of Domenikos”. The new signature reveals the artist’s scholarship and is expressive of a mature artistic personality.