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“View of Toledo” by El Greco

View of Toledo MET DP349564

“View of Toledo” by El Greco

“View of Toledo” by El Greco is one of only two surviving landscapes by El Greco and is among the most famous depictions of the sky in Western art. El Greco’s expressive handling of color and form was unique in the history of art. In this painting, he takes liberties with the actual layout of buildings that are re-arranged for effect. The Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) had banned landscape painting, so this work is one of the first Spanish landscape painting of its time.

The painting’s symbolism is related to the history and heritage of the city during the time this painting was created. Charles I’s royal court was in Toledo, and the town served as the imperial capital until 1561, after which the Spanish court was moved to Madrid. This painting was painted shortly after the royal capital, and the Spanish court left Toledo behind. El Greco’s background in Byzantine art also influenced this painting.

El Greco

Doménikos Theotokópoulos, widely known as El Greco, Spanish for “The Greek,” was a painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. The artist frequently signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos), often adding the word Κρής (Krēs, “Cretan”). He is best known for elongated figures and for marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

El Greco was born in Crete, which at that time was part of the Republic of Venice and the center of Post-Byzantine art. He trained and became a master of Byzantine art before traveling to Venice to work; then he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works. In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.

El Greco’s style was met with puzzlement by his 16th-century contemporaries. However, he found greater appreciation in modern times and is today regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism. His works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers, and he is considered, as an artist, so individual that he belongs to no conventional school.

View of Toledo

  • Title:                 View of Toledo
  • Artist:               El Greco
  • Year:                 1599
  • Medium:          Oil on panel
  • Dimensions:     47.7 × 42.7 in (121.2 × 108.5 cm)
  • Museum:        Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

El Greco

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“Painting is easy when you don’t know how,
but very difficult when you do.”

– Edgar Degas


Photo Credit: [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons