Domenikos Theotokopolous, known as El Greco (the Greek), was a Cretan-born painter, sculptor, and architect who settled in Spain and is regarded as the first great genius of the Spanish School. He signed all his paintings as El Greco throughout his life, always in Greek characters, and sometimes followed by Kres (Cretan).

El Greco was born on October 1, 1541, in Heraklion, Greece and died on April 7, 1614, in Toledo, Spain

Little is known of his youth, and only a few works survive by him in the Byzantine tradition of icon painting, notably the recently discovered Dormition of the Virgin (Church of the Koimesis tis Theotokou, Syros). In 1566 he is referred to in a Cretan document as a master painter; soon afterward he went to Venice (Crete was then a Venetian possession), then in 1570 moved to Rome. The miniaturist Giulio Clovio, whom he met there, described him as a pupil of Titian, but of all the Venetian painters Tintoretto influenced him most, and Michelangelo’s impact on his development was also important.

Pacheco, who visited El Greco in 1611, refers to him as a writer on painting, sculpture, and architecture. He had a proud temperament, conceiving of himself as an artist-philosopher rather than a craftsman, and had a lavish lifestyle, although he had little success in securing the royal patronage he desired and seems to have had some financial difficulties near the end of his life.

Art is everywhere you look for it,

hail the twinkling stars for they are

God’s careless splatters.

His workshop turned out a great many replicas of his paintings, but his work was so personal that his influence was slight, his only followers of note being his son Jorge Manuel Theotocopouli and Luis Tristán. Interest in his art revived at the end of the 19th century, and with the development of Expressionism in the 20th century he came into his own.

The strangeness of his art has inspired various theories, for example, that he was mad or suffered from astigmatism, but his rapturous paintings make complete sense as an expression of the religious fervor of his adopted country.