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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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El Greco's use of elongated figures makes many of his most famous paintings instantly recognisable as his own, though there was a plethora of different influences on his artistic style that culminated in the work that you find here.

The uniqueness of El Greco's style meant that his initial plan to become a court painter was simply unrealistic. The Spanish and Italian Renaissances left a great influence on the young Greek artist who continually moved around the continent in order to make the most of his natural talents. During these periods of art history many artists would pass on their technical knowledge to the next generation through art schools but only those with similar approaches to the masters could be accepted. Venetian artist Tintoretto, for example, was similarly bold in his paintings and immediately deemed unsuitable for tutorship from Titian. That said, the actual content chosen by this Greek painter was very much in line with other members of the Renaissance, covering all of the major religious themes within his career including various chapters in the life of Jesus Christ. He would then go on to produce many commissioned portraits of high ranking figures such as members of the Monarchy and other notablemen.

El Greco's dramatic style with great activity and colour is present in all of his major works and he managed to produce a type of brand through this consistent, unique approach to figurative painting. This artist was profoundly religious and would insert his faith into his expressive paintings. They were not simply depictions of religious tales, but an output of his emotional feelings towards particular passages of Christian teachings. The bright accompanying colours are equally bold and deliver a breathtaking series of paintings which total close to 100. There were also drawings from which he would hone his figurative skills, just all masters in this genre had found it necessary to do. The connection of El Greco's spirituality with his art proved a winning formula. Whilst other artists from the Renaissance were obsessed with providing accurate depictions of the human form, El Greco gave himself full freedom, expressing himself on the canvas rather than aiming to achieve perfect reproductions.

This combined Mannerist style with iconographic compositions of the Byzantine periods. He let his imagination run riot throughout each and every scene and was starting to forge a new path for artists that would later develop into the Surrealism of Dali and the Cubism of Picasso. Without the likes of El Greco and Tintoretto forging these new paths, we may not have enjoyed all that followed. View of Toledo indicates how El Greco was also skilled in landscape painting, though it was a particularly rare genre during the Renaissance. It was only several centuries later that artists would specialise entirely in landscape painting, rather than just as an element of an overall composition, as the likes of Giorgione had done earlier. Tones of green and blue were already part of his signature style and his atmospheric style was also well suited to putting together angry looking skies and sprawling hills in his cityscape scenes.