Domenikos Theotokopoulos, other wise known as “El Greco” due to his Greek heritage, was a popular Greek painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. He was a master of post-Byzantine art by the age of 26, when he traveled to Venice, and later Rome, where he opened his first workshop. Unlike other artists, El Greco altered his style in order to distinguish himself from other artists of the time, inventing new and unusual interpretations of religious subject matter. He created agile, elongated figures, and included a vibrant atmospheric light. After the death of Raphael and Michelangelo, he was determined to leave his own artistic mark, and offered to paint over Michelangelo’s Last Supper to Pope Pius V. His unconventional artistic beliefs (his dislike of Michelangelo included), along with his strong personality, led to the development of many enemies in Rome, especially the hostilities of art critics.
In 1577, El Greco Moved to Toledo, where he produced the majority of his mature works. Although he did complete major commissioned works in churches around Toledo, he remained out of favor with the king, and so did not receive the royal patronage he so desired. El Greco made Toledo his home, renting a series of apartments from the Marquis de Villena, which included three apartments and twenty-four rooms. He spent much of time studying, painting, and living in high style, often employing musicians to play for him while he dined.
Although he was a much renowned and prolific painter, near the end of his life he experienced economic difficulties, exacerbated by non-payment for his work for the Hospital of Charities at Illescas. He met his end at the age of 73, due to a sudden illness. After his death, El Greco’s works were largely ignored. His unusual treatment of subject matter and complex iconography led many contemporaries to discredit his works. It was not until the emergence of the Romantic period that his works were newly discovered, sparking a revival of interest in the artist’s works. His works later influenced realist, impressionist, cubist, and abstract painters, including Pablo Picasso and Edouard Manet.