is a must see exhibit. It will be on display at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York City through January 11, 2004.
I had the pleasure of viewing the retrospective of "El Greco"
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. I found
it to be breathtaking. It left me with a deep respect
for El Greco's work. I was fascinated by the vibrant colors
and the ease of the brush strokes. El Greco's unconventional
style was unique in the 16th Century. He created
elongated human figures as a means to express emotion
in his religious subjects.
Art is something that fascinates us all. What distinguishes one
artist from another? How do we tell between fine art and
ordinary art, a professional or an amateur?
These are questions that perplex the average individual who is
not an art enthusiast but who nonetheless enjoys looking
at pieces of art work that is commonly described as "one
of the best". Many artist are not recognized during
their time, yet receive recognition years after they have
physically left us. We wonder, are these artist before
their time and are the citizens of that period not ready
for the artistic expression they deem radical or eccentric.
How do we in a modern age decide that an artist who was
not appreciated during his time is now deemed a creative
Hence, we find ourselves in the New York City, Metropolitan Museum
of Art, where thousands of pieces of art pass through
their doors year after year, some on visit and some on
permanent exhibit. How did Philippe de Montebello, Director,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City and curator
Keith Christiansen chose and select such divine pieces
of art such as the one presently on exhibit, El Greco,
that stand above all the others, to be exhibited at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City?
El Greco was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614) in Candia,
Crete. He moved to Toledo, Spain where he resided. He
is known as one of the "world's greatest artists".
He is considered to be an exceptional artist and one of
the most remarkable artist of the sixteenth century. This
is the first retrospective of El Greco since the late
20th century (1982).
Paradoxically, it is precisely the most
extravagant flights of El Greco's fertile imagination
- works in which the figures are elongated beyond credibility
and their forms dematerialized by a flickering brushwork
- that are most prized today (they form the core of this
exhibition). In the present age of secularism, this is
nothing short of miraculous. (Phillippe de Montebello,
Directors' Forward, News Release)
It is El Greco's use of distorted images and exaggerated colors
that give his art its emotional intensity. Where his art
seems dramatic and purposeful, it represents a blend of
passion and restraint. El Greco's religious fervor was
influenced by the mysticism of the Counter-Reformation.
We see this not in his sculpture, but in his religious
Movement was a central critical issue
during the Renaissance' artist in the Renaissance always
had an inflected posture, one leg bent, one leg straight.
All this had to do with making an image non-static keeping
the eye moving. We know from El Greco's marginal notes
to his copy of the "Sorries Lives" that he felt
absolutely committed to this. El Greco takes this into
a new direction, not only do his figures gesture in a
way that suggest movement, but the brush is in constant
movement and he literally abolishes the outline. This
I find to be absolutely extraordinary! Sometimes you will
see him lay down an area and then dry brush through it
to break any outline. This suggest a constant vibration
between background, foreground, one element, and feature
of another. This is one of the modern aspects of El Greco'
figures are set off boldly by black all around them which
literally abolishes any sort of natural normative relationship
with the background. No artist prior to the twentieth
century has done this sort of thing and this also isolates
the figures and the figures are in these convoluting poses.
Nobody does more elaborate foreshortenings more insistence
on figures seen in positions that are absolutely beyond
belief than El Greco - if you allow yourself to be seduced
by his handling of the brush, you are going to have an
extraordinary experience. (Keith Christiansen, Curator,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, Interview).
Some highlights of the exhibit are:
View of Toledo, about 1597-9, Oil on canvas, 47 ¾ x 42 ¾ in., The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York is the only landscape
painting by the artist that survives. El Greco has imaginatively
reconfigured the city of Toledo, showing the cathedral
not in its actual position but to the left of the Alcazar
The Adoration of the Shepherds, about 1612-14, Oil on canvas, 125 ½
x 70 7/8 in, Museo nacional del Prado, Madrid, inv. 2988.
The subject originates in Saint Luke's, who narrates how
an angel of the Lord stood by the shepherds came to the
crib to adore the Child. At the lower part, Mary, Joseph
and three shepherds form a circle around the Child; above,
a chorus of angels hold a phylactery with the inscription
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO ET IN TERRA PAX. The figure of
the Child becomes a symbolic light focus irradiating its
brightness to the rest of the figures.
The Resurrection, late 1590's, Oil on canvas, 108 ¼ x 50 in., Museo Nacional
del Prado, Madrid, inv. 825. The nude figure of Christ
wearing a splendid crimson cloak and holding a white flag,
rises effortless in an incandescent light. The soldiers
below, arranged in a semicircle, raise their arms and
contort their bodies, in great confusion and amazement.
The foreshortened figures of two other guardians have
been knocked down and a third one, wearing a helmet, dozes
completely devoid of the magnitude of the wonder.
El Greco is one of the great masters of
European painting. He is also one of the most individual
personal artist who really transformed what were very
traditional themes, the whole history of the life of Christ
and the saints into a completely new realm of very intense
spirituality that is very much his own.
He's also a great portrait painter and a great
master. This is an exhibition of El Greco that for the
first time ever really covers the whole history of his
career only with absolutely the very best works. Anyone
who comes to see it will be greatly rewarded. (Phillippe
de Montebello, Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY,
This is an emotional experience that rarely occurs in an exhibit
of this type. This richness may not present itself again
and may be the only opportunity you will have to view
a show of this magnitude.
If you value art, this would be something you have to see. If you
are not an avid art enthusiast, it would be an experience
you can talk about for years to come. It might change
the way you feel about art.
This is a must see exhibit. It will be on display at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York City through January 11, 2004.
E-mail to Louise Mercado: firstname.lastname@example.org