Art: Thunderbolts Of Ecstasy

Four hundred years later, the works of El Greco--the Greek who triumphed in Spain--can still jolt us

If it weren't for Van Gogh, who but El Greco would be our best symbol for the individual genius, the artist working in a style unlike any other of his time? All that lashing brushwork; the torqued, lunging figures; the saints stretched as tight as thunderbolts by their passion for God--if ever there was an artist whose work seems edged all around by fire, it's El Greco.

All the same, he appears less strange to us than he did to the 19th century that rediscovered him. Manet, who admired his portraits, still pronounced him "bizarre" overall. But now, after the fractured...

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