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Aggelou 32, Chania, Greece

In the heart of the Old Town of Chania

El Greco: the Mediterranean artist 🎨

A life devoted to Art

Most of us have heard of “El Greco”; an artist renowned for his characteristic style of painting. El Greco had a life full of challenges, but his works have left a lasting impression on the world of art, with a highlight on the Spanish Renaissance. El Greco’s painting style is characterized by elongated figures, dramatic lighting, and vivid colours. His paintings often depict religious subjects, including saints and martyrs. Moreover, his amazing skills weren’t limited to painting; he was also a great sculptor and architect.

One of his most famous works, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (original title: El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz) is a 1586 large-scale painting. It depicts a religious ceremony in which the Count of Orgaz is buried in Toledo, Spain. Moreover, View of Toledo (original title: Vista de Toledo), is one of the two surviving landscapes painted by El Greco, along with View and Plan of Toledo. This masterpiece is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Today, El Greco is considered a master of the Spanish Renaissance, and his works are highly prized by art collectors and enthusiasts around the world. His influence can be seen in the works of many artists who came after him, including Picasso and Jackson Pollock. El Greco’s legacy continues to inspire artists and art lovers alike, and his contributions to the world of art will always be remembered.

Was he Spanish or Greek?

Despite most of his artworks having Spanish titles, El Greco was Greek and specifically Cretan. As a matter of fact, “El Greco” was not his real name, just a nickname that translates to “The Greek” in Spanish. His real name was

Doménikos Theotokópoulos

He was born in 1541, in the area of Candia, Crete (the modern city of Heraklion), probably in the village of Fodele, where you can visit The Museum of El Greco, located just a 1.5-hour drive away from Iason Studios, Chania, and died on April 7, 1614, in Toledo, Spain. As additional proof of that, the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, often adding the word “Κρής” (Kres), which means “Cretan”!

Because of the impact of his work, many honours have been given to this great artist, such as naming buildings, squares and streets after him. In the old town of Chania, you will find Theotokopoulou street to be one of the most popular and crowded streets. A fun fact is that Iason Studios is located next to Theotokopoulou street! This street has a classic Venetian style, be it the architecture of the buildings, the colourful decorations, or even the stone pavement. Nonetheless, the old town of Chania is filled with many streets and alleys like this one, such as Aggelou street, which intersects once again with Theotokopoulou street, as well as with the main entrance of Iason Studios.

Aggelou street, an alley in the old town of Chania with buildings of classic Venetian style
Aggelou street: An alley in the old town of Chania with buildings of classic Venetian style. This alley communicates with Theotokopoulou street, one of the most well-known streets of the old town, and with the waterfront of the old harbor of Chania, where you can have a relaxing walk. Photo by Andreas Pajuvirta on Unsplash

Why did El Greco leave Greece?

In his early years, El Greco used to work as an icon painter in the Eastern Orthodox tradition in Crete. However, his pursuit was not limited to this small part, therefore he left Crete in 1568 to study western-style painting in Venice, Italy. There he was greatly influenced and inspired by the Venetian artists Titian and Tintoretto, embracing their rich colours and free, sketchy manner of painting. About two years later, he moved to Rome, where the aesthetic and techniques of Michelangelo and Raphael had prevailed, inspiring heavily the young artists, even though both of them had passed away.

Nonetheless, El Greco was determined to make his own impact and overcome their influence with his own. During his attempts to do so, he ill-advisedly criticized Michelangelo’s abilities as a painter. This opinion generated little confidence in his abilities. In addition, he did not hesitate to dismiss Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. Instead, he offered Pope Pius V to paint the whole work again, according to the new and stricter Catholic thinking.

last judgement painting on Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo
Last Judgement – Michelangelo

In spite of his attempts, the battle for artistic prevalence was lost in Italy. Thus, El Greco moved to Toledo in Spain. He arrived in 1577 and remained there for the rest of his life while producing his most important works. In the relative isolation of Spain, he had the opportunity to explore and intensify the possibilities of mannerism, while his contemporaries in Italy returned to more naturalistic styles. Despite his multiple relocations and his great talents, El Greco faced many challenges in his life. He struggled to find acceptance even in his adopted country of Spain and was often judged for his unconventional style. However, he persevered and continued to create works that were both innovative and beautiful.

Find the artist within yourself!

If you’re interested in the iconic figure of El Greco, it’s time for you to visit the land of his origin, Crete! Walk on the majestic alleys of the old town of Chania and embrace the architecture of the buildings, the historic monuments and the iconic artworks. All of the above were the components of a unique mixture, which fueled the amazing mind of El Greco and led him to create wonderful works of art. You will spot his name on almost every corner, be it a local store, a greek coffee brand or even a restaurant.

So what are you waiting for? Come visit us and experience the artistic side of Chania, Crete firsthand! We guarantee that you will love it! Book your stay at Iason Studios and fall in love with the Cretan art!

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