Plus: William Kent’s heavenly ceilings, New York’s terrible new skyscrapers, the market’s obsession with young painters, the artists who channel their inner child, and reviews of Walter Sickert, Raphael and Winslow Homer
In this week’s episode of “Cocktails with a Curator,” journey to sixteenth-century Rome with Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon as he discusses El Greco’s “Vincenzo Anastagi,” one of three important paintings by the Renaissance artist in the Frick’s collection. Born in Crete, El Greco spent a formative seven years in Rome, where he painted this rare, full-length portrait of a minor aristocrat from Perugia then serving as Sergeant Major of Castel Sant’Angelo. Look closely at this unusual painting while sipping an Ouzo Lemonade, which gets its kick from the anise-flavored spirit popular in the artist’s birthplace.
Explore the exhibition “El Greco: Ambition and Defiance” with curator Rebecca Long and research associate Jena Carvana. Follow along as they lead you through the galleries and share some of the reasons El Greco and his work continue to fascinate us.
This major exhibition charts the career of the artist known simply as El Greco. Over 57 works from across the world trace not only the development of his distinctive style but also the astounding ambition that drove him to relentlessly pursue success.
Born in Crete as Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541–1614), El Greco trained in the traditional manner of Byzantine icon painting. He moved to Venice in 1567 to learn a new artistic approach, absorbing developments in Venetian Renaissance painting through the lens of artists such as Titian and Tintoretto. The works El Greco painted during his time in Venice, however, reveal both his embrace of and struggles to fully adapt to this manner of painting.
Following this transformative period, El Greco went to Rome, probably in an attempt to attract patronage within the papal circle. There his acceptance into the elevated circle of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese brought a close association with the painter Giulio Clovio and the erudite historian and collector Fulvio Orsini. El Greco’s portraits, allegories, and religious paintings between 1570 and 1577 reflect these relationships as well as his complicated engagement with Michelangelo and other artistic luminaries of the 16th century.
Rediscovered in the late 19th century, celebrated by authors, acknowledged and embraced by the 20th century avant-garde, the artist has enjoyed the dual prestige of tradition and modernity, linking Titian to the Fauvists and Mannerism to Cubism, Expressionism, Vorticism and Abstraction up to the Action painting.
This retrospective is the first major exhibition in France ever to be dedicated to this artist.
Born in Crete in 1541, Domenico Theotokopoulos, known as El Greco, undertook his initial apprenticeship in the Byzantine tradition before refining his training in Venice and then Rome. However, it was in Spain that his art flourished, firmly taking root from the 1577s. Attracted by the incredible promise of the El Escorial site, the artist brought Titian’s colour, Tintoretto’s audacity and Michelangelo’s heroic style. This eloquent combination, original yet consistent with his own way, gave El Greco (who died four years after Caravaggio) a unique place in the history of painting, as the last grand master of the Renaissance and the first great painter of the Golden Age.