400th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF EL GRECO

400th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF EL GRECO  

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614), known as "El Greco", was born in Crete where he grew up to become an artist. The island belonged to the Republic of Venice at the time and was the center of an important, post-Byzantine painting movement called the Cretan School. After becoming an established painter, he went to Venice in 1567 where some of the most important artists of the time were working. He was influenced by painters such as Tintoretto and Titian, but he expressed his own unique style by using more intense colors and a freer brush stroke. His style developed further in Rome where, as a guest of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, he encountered the outstanding works of the great Renaissance painters. His figures acquired a greater plasticity through the use of chiaroscuro, but his characteristic and nonconventional traits - apart from his strong personality (he once spoke of Michelangelo, saying, "he was a good man, but he did not know how to paint") - quickly forced him to search for better fortunes in the court of Philip II, king of Spain. He gained his artistic recognition in the city of Toledo where he was considered a great painter from the time of his arrival in 1577. It was here that he created his most acclaimed masterpieces ("The Assumption", "Pentecost", "Christ in the Garden", "The Apocalypse", "The Apostles", "View of Toledo", ...). The artist is still considered today incredibly modern in that he anticipated the painting trends of the late 1800s and the early 1900s. He put aside the principles of classicism on measure and proportion and affirmed that it is color which has supremacy in the image (which he depicted sometimes with a sketchy manner) to the point of drawing the observer immediately to the central elements of his works, including realism, suffering and expressivity. The small painting reproduced on the postage stamp is a beautiful face of Christ, part of the Vatican Museums collection, but found inside the Apostolic Palace which is not open to the public. It is a pleasure and an honor for the Philatelic Office to feature this painting for all art lovers.