400 Years of El Greco in Toledo
by John Bascombe on Friday, November 21, 2014
If you’re in Madrid this year, check out Toledo; it’s just a short half hour train-ride to the south and 2014 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of this historic city’s most illustrious figure. A full-blown fiesta raging throughout the year is commemorating the life and work of famed painter Doménikos Theotokópulos (1541-1614), known to the world as El Greco. A fantastic variety of lively cultural events and handsome exhibits of inspired works selected from this Golden Age artist’s vibrant oeuvre all await visitors. Still not convinced? Keep in mind that the city of Toledo itself displays medieval urban landscapes that seem to teleport observers to a flourishing age of arts.
Lively and colorful artistic performances have been erupting this year on the streets of Toledo’s aged old town. These high-energy productions celebrate the distant past of this town known as the “City of Three Cultures”, referring to the historic coexisting presence of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. The French group La Salamandre will offer a show on December 6th that will blend dance, theater, and firework displays inspired by El Greco’s vibrant paintings.
Although El Greco was Greek (his nickname alludes to his Greek origins) he moved to Toledo in 1577 where he created his most defining paintings. Today, his life and work are intimately woven into the cultural fabric of the Spanish city. Curiously, this anniversary event marks the first time an exhibit exclusively devoted to his works has ever been offered in the city.
Heavily stylized figures elongated to impossible proportion characterize this Renaissance era painter’s striking pieces. His work also captures ecstatic images charged with dynamic emotional intensity. All this bold representation didn’t always find favor over the centuries. Baroque-age critics flatly described his intense paintings as “delirious”. Today however, long after a time of movements such as modernism, El Greco has found a strong following of admiring fans around the world. It’s precisely his unabashed expressiveness over precision of form that makes him a highly influential old master among new generations of artists. Just to give you an idea of his international popularity, 60 paintings were shipped in from 29 cities all over the globe for an exhibit held earlier this year in Toledo, an ambitious event billed as the largest El Greco exhibit ever held.
You still have time to catch the final exhibit of this year long celebration, which is being held from now until December 9. “El Greco: Painter and Master” displays works such as the entire series of Apostolate of the Marquis of San Feliz and also The Apostolate of Almadrones.
The anniversary celebration has been a popular cultural event. The president of the El Greco 2014 Foundation, Gregorio Marañón, has asserted that “El año Greco has turned into “an authentic social phenomenon”. Although events and festivities have mainly taken place in Toledo, they’ve also been held in Valladolid and at the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Toledo is always an attractive day trip possibility for visitors in Madrid, but this year, this city that has earned recognition as a UNESCO world-heritage site should be a particularly essential addition to your itinerary. The old town majestically perched atop a hill features an Alcazar fortress, a mosque, a monastery, a synagogue and a Roman bridge that date back thousands of years. Immerse yourself in this medieval atmosphere lost in time and prepare to indulge in a visual feast that showcases the dramatized imagery of a popular old master who helped put Toledo on the map of the art world.
Keywords: year of el greco, el greco toledo, el greco 2014, toledo events, toledo travel