The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters

100 Greatest Painters  Artists Alphabetically  Artists by Country  Artists by Century   Artists by Movement

EL GRECO also known as Domenicos Theotokopoulos


One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

Visionary Greek Mannerist Painter

Stylistically influenced by the following painters;  - Titian, Tintoretto

Education - studied under Titian

Cause of Death -  drowning

Mannerist painting example - Saint Martin and the Beggar, c. 1597,  by El Greco  

In the works that introduced him to Spain, Christ Stripped of His Garments on Calvary, El Greco has freed himself from Titian, and now seems as a savage entering the world of art with impetuous primeval power. He displays his a collection of Herculean figures composed of real flesh and blood, of barbaric bone and marrow. The same quality gives his painting of the Holy Trinity a primeval, brutal grandeur. His picture in the church of San Tome in Toledo, in which members of a knightly order solemnly attend the funeral of count Orgaz, whose corpse is lowered into a grave by two saints, while Christ, Mary, martyrs, and angels hover in the air, this penetrating painting in its abrupt union of actual with transcendental, already heralds the visionary painting of the seventeenth century. His later works are uncanny, ghostly paintings of exaggerated line and harsh color; which seem executed in was colors mingled with the mould of corpses. In all respects he seems a strange titanic master; and not until more is known of his life will he stand revealed as an artist. -- Richard Muther, The History of Modern Painting, Henry and Co., London, 1896

Interesting Facts About El Greco's Life

El Greco was born as Domenikos Theotokopoulos in the picturesque village of Fodele on the island of Crete .

As a youth El Greco studied  icon painting at a local monastery 
El Greco means The Greek.

El Greco was 26 when he fled his homespun roots and landed in the bustling metropolis of Venice around 1566.

While in Venice El Greco was worked in the studio of the brilliant High Renaissance artist Titian.

El Greco was finically shrewd and lived the life of the nobiliy.  Along with his beautiful young mistress and son, he lived in a sumptuous house in Toledo and entertained internationally acclaimed writers, artist and poets. El Greco is one of the few artists who died a wealthy man.

El Greco's Most Famous Masterpeices

Mannerism Characteristics

The name mannerism comes  from the Italian maniera, which translates to  'style'. 

Mannerism is an artistic style that surfaced after the Sack of Rome on May 6 1527, when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor descended upon Rome raping, plundering and massacring. Many great artworks were destroyed or carted off.  This senseless slaughter unhinged Renaissance confidence, humanism and way of thinking to the core. The style originated in Rome and later widened to all of Europe. Mannerists paintings are characterized by elongated limbs, thin aquiline noses,  overly stylized figures, undersized heads, electrifying, vibrant colors and elaborately mannered, theatrical compositions. According to Renaissance scholar John C. Van Dyke  "They produced large, crowded compositions, with a hasty facility of the brush and striking effects of light. Seeking the grand they overshot the temperate. Their elegance was affected, their sentiment forced, their brilliancy superficial glitter. When they thought to be ideal they lost themselves in incomprehensible allegories; when they thought to be real they grew prosaic in detail. These men are known in art history as the Mannerists, and the men whose works they imitated were chiefly Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Correggio. "

The Mannerists in Italy worked on generous commission for a restricted audience of Vatican powerbrokers and royalty. The subjects they were allowed to portray was controlled and restricted to biblical themes, portraiture and occasionally mythology.  El Greco said to hell with the money went off to Spain to pursue his own amazing vision

Characteristics of the Mannerist Style

Originating in Italy, the term mannerism comes from the Italian 'maniera', which translates to 'style'. Mannerism is an artistic style that was born in the early 1500s.  The style originated in Italy and later widened to all of Europe. Mannerists paintings are characterized by elongated limbs, thin aquiline noses,  long tapering fingers, undersized heads,  garish colors and elaborately mannered, contorted postures. The Mannerists in Italy worked on commission for a restricted audience of Vatican powerbrokers and royalty. The subjects they were allowed to portray was controlled and restricted to Biblical themes, portraits and occasionally mythology.  El Greco spurned the sumptuous commissions in favor of artistic freedom went off to Spain and to pursue his own magnificent vision.


Masters of The Mannerist Style

Paolo Veronese

Jacopo da Pontormo

El Greco

Giorgio Vasari

Giovanni Rosso Fiorentino

Agnolo Bronzino


Important Words, People, Phrases, Characteristics related to the Italian Renaissance Art Movement - rebirth, rediscovery of the classical world, City-state, Humanism, Humanist, Francesco Petrarch, Reform, The Prince, Theocracy, The Inquisition, Human Reasoning, Medici Academy, publication of Della Pittura, a book about the laws of mathematical perspective for artists, sfumato, chiaroscuro, linear perspectiveHeliocentric Theory, Petrarch, Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, liberal arts, civic humanism, Verrocchio, secularism, Leonardo Bruni, Lorenzo Valla, Neo-Platonism, nominalism, Giotto, Masaccio, Botticelli, Quattrocento, vanishing point, Savonarola, oligarchy spiritually significant,  illuminated manuscript idealized biblical themes, scriptorium, emotion, illuminator,  iconoclast,  Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci,  Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world, mythology,  realistic use of colours and light Bonfire of the Vanities, Old Testament stories, ethereal and foggy backgrounds, Gospel parablesThe Blackdeath, romanticized landscapes,  Christian symbolism. Paradise


If you feel you have worthwhile information you would like to contribute we would love to hear from you. We collect essential biographical information and artist quotes from folks all over the globe and appreciate your participation. When submitting please, if possible, site the source and provide English translation. Email to 2017

If you like this page and wish to share it, you are welcome to link to it, with our thanks. 



Popular Questions About  Renaissance Art History

What is the difference between Italian Renaissance art and Northern Renaissance art?

How did the Black Death impact  European art history?

How did the Inquisition impact  European art history?

What was the influence of the Medici Academy on Renaissance painters?

What was the Bonfire of the Vanities?

Who were the greatest painters of the Renaissance?