Becoming El Greco


THE OPENING OF THE FIFTH SEAL (1608-1614): Truly Apocalyptic. In a scene from the biblicalbook Revelation, St John the seer meets the souls of the martyrs.

The genius known as El Greco started his working life as icon painter Doménikos Theotokópoulos on the Greek island of Crete. He ended it as the undisputed giant of 16th century Spanish art. Ever since they were rediscovered in the 19th century, his dramatic religious set pieces and dark, melancholy portraits have been regarded as groundbreaking, and 20th century modernists claimed him as a brother. But he used an alchemy all his own to fuse old and new for the greatest possible impact — at least, that's what one takes away from the exhibition of his work (amazingly, the U.K.'s first...

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