Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Genius of El Greco, Part 2 --- Day 2/285

Walk: JCCSF (Maureen Dowd)
Distance: 20 blocks and small home yoga practice

Another area in which El Greco was far ahead of his time is his use of landscapes.

Western European painting evolved from the icon tradition in which backgound was often gold or some valuable ground gemstone.  So even as European artists expanded their presentation of figure and anatomy, landscapes continued to be largely non-existent as in the painting below in which pounded gold and painted angels are the 'background/landscape.'

Ambrosius Benson (Flemish), The Lamentation, 1540, oil on panel

Or: if they were included, landscapes were simple (as in a few trees) or fanciful like the painting below with two putti and some sort of sun gondola in the sky.

Raffaellino del Garbo, Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, @1500

Basically landscapes were either overlooked or of very little import - essentially space fillers behind the prominent subject of the work..  This low regard for landscape continued until well into the 1800's.

But not so with El Greco.  With his painting of Toledo (below) he literally became the first landscape painter in the history of Spanish art. This is a stand alone landscape, not just background, and with a few artistic modifications in his placement of some of the buildings it is an accurate as well as expressive depiction of the look and feel of the city and the nature surrounding it. Once again, there is that astounding sky which we don't really see again until Turner or Vah Gogh's Starry Night.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (called El Greco), View of Toledo, 1596-1600, o/c

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