El Greco
énikos Theotokópoulos

El Greco
Domenikos Theotokopoulos - portrait on a postage stamp

Domenikos Theotokopoulos

Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος who became famously known as 'El Greco' was born on the island of Crete in 1541. He was a Renaissance painter, sculptor and architect. His style was unique and controversial.

The exact place of his birth is disputed to this day, however the village of Fodele in the north-west of Iraklion, claims him as its son.

The Byzantine empire fell in 1453, and many artists retreated to Iraklion, then under Venetian rule, with a flourishing culture including the arts. Theotokopoulos learnt from these artists and a natural next step was to study further in Venice.

He left Crete in 1567 to study in Venice under Titian. He spent 10 years in Italy until he went to Spain.

Laocoon, Domenikos TheotokopoulosLaocoon 1610

In Spain his emotional style was well received and he was recognised, by being invited in 1579 to the court at Toledo, then the artistic and intellectual centre of the Iberian peninsular. He painted many acclaimed works there between 1577 and 1614.

He had one son, Jorge Manuel by his unmarried companion Doña Jeronima de las Cuevas. He was also an artist.

Theotokopoulos died in 1614 in Spain.

The Works of Theotokopoulos

Portrait of a Woman by Domenikos TheotokopoulosPortrait of a Woman

Whilst in Iraklion, Theotokopoulos studied Byzantine art, mainly religious in nature, and studied in the Cretan School; he then went on to be influenced by Titian, and other Italian renaissance artists.

His expression was distinct and not always understood during his lifetime or following generations. His style was dramatic and expressive, less realistic than his contemporaries.

The celebrated works of Theotokopoulos include

The Burial of Count Orgaz, Domenikos Theotokopoulos 1586

"El Expolio" 1577-1579
"The Burial of Count Orgaz" 1586 (pictured right)
"View of Toledo" 1596-1600 (pictured below)
"Martyrdom of St. Maurice" 1580-1582
"Laocoon" 1610 (pictured above
"Opening of the Fifth Seal" 1608-1614

Below is a video presentation of many of the works of Domenikos Theotokopoulos set to the music of Vangelis.

The Artist in Crete

Fodele Museum dedicated to the artist

In the charming village of Fodele in Crete, a monument to Domenikos Theotokopoulos can be found in the main street next to the Pandomandri river. The plaque was donated by the University of Valladolid in Spain in honour of the artist.

Also in the village is the Museum of El Greco (above) in the house said to be his birthplace.

In the town of Iraklion in Crete is the Historical Museum of Crete at 7, Lysimachos Kalokairinos. Two paintings by Domenikos Theotokopoulos are displayed in the Post Byzantine collection:

"The Baptism of Christ" 1567
"View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine" 1570

These are the only works by the artist on display on Crete.

The Museum has a small entry fee and is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm, opening late on Wednesdays until 9pm. Visiting times may be shorter during winter season, so check details at: www.historical-museum.gr

Plateia El Greco

In central Heraklion is a lovely big square or plaza with a bust of Theotokopoulos in the centre. With plenty of seats, trees and bushes it makes a serene haven in the centre of the city. Nearby are some lovely cafes, including internet cafes, and Street Café, one of our favourites in the city. This plateia is not far from the Liondaria fountain. Opposite the plateia El Greco is the office of OTE and also a postal outlet.

Theotokopoulos Around the World

The works of Theotokopoulos are dotted around the world.

View of Toledo, Domenikos Theotokopoulos 1596-1600View of Toledo 1596-1600

In Toledo lies the Museo del Greco, which houses the majority of his works. www.mcu.es

"El Expolio" was painted in the Sacristy of the Cathedral of Toledo and can be visited there today.

Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid houses Theotokopoulos paintings including his portraits.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City houses "Opening of the Fifth Seal" 1608-1614

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC houses many Theotokopoulos works, as does the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

El Greco The Movie

Poster of the movie 2007

The movie, called simply "El Greco", was released in 2007; directed by Cretan born Iannis Smaragdis, with a score by Vangelis. Filmed in Crete, Rhodes, Athens and Spain, it follows the life of the artist amongst turbulent events of history.

Actor Nick Ashton plays the lead in this production of international flavours. The film is not historically accurate. It is an English language film based on the novel by Dimitris Siatopoulous El Greco: The Painter of God.

This is the most expensive Greek production rumoured to cost 7 million Euro.

Below are video introductions for the movie about the artist's life:

An exhibition of Theotokopoulos's work was shown in Athens between October 2007 and January 2008 to coincide with the release of the film. Shown at the Museum of Cycladic Art, the exhibition was opened by Queen Sophia of Spain.

Soundtrack by Vangelis (album cover)

In 2007 Vangelis released the soundtrack of the movie on CD.

'The Greek of Toledo'

In 2014, in the town of Toledo in Spain, where the artist lived and painted for the majority of his life, the Museum of Santa Cruz held exhibitions named 'The Greek of Toledo' to honour his memory and commemorate 400 years since his death. Exhibitions were also shown in Madrid at the Prado Museum and in Valladolid.

There are many debates and dialogues of art history surrounding Theotokopoulos. If you have an opinion or a question, feel free to post on our safe contact us page.