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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 13:24 GMT
Review: El Greco
Penny Papadopoulou
BBC News Online

El Greco's Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino, 1609, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Paravicino was a fan of El Greco's work

The first major exhibition of El Greco's work in the UK opens at London's National Gallery next month.

If the Turner prize had been around in the 16th Century, El Greco would probably have been on the shortlist.

A painter who embraced Renaissance art and Byzantine tradition, he managed to create a uniquely personal and deeply spiritual style and capture the "soul" of the divine like no other artist.

The El Greco exhibition, organised jointly by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in London, proves his genius.

Made up of approximately 70 works arranged chronologically, it brings together some of El Greco's finest paintings and drawings as well as impressive altarpieces and rarely seen sculptures from round the world.

The Dormition of the Virgin is the first painting in the exhibition.

A rare religious icon from El Greco's Cretan period depicts the Virgin with the Apostles gathered around her with Christ in the centre.

El Greco's early works reveal a young but gifted natural painter.

Compositions full of light and colour illustrate the transforming effects of his stay in Italy and the powerful influence of Titian and Tintoretto in his art.

Laocoön, early 1610s, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Board of Trustees
El Greco influenced Cézanne, Pollock and Picasso
The exhibition continues with a selection of El Greco's finest portraits.

One of his most compelling is A Cardinal, Probably Don Fernando Nino de Guevara whose piercing gaze suggests the stern rectitude with which he carried out his duties.

His portrait of Fray Hortensio Felix Paravicino, a young cleric and great admirer of El Greco, is another masterpiece.

Particular emphasis has been placed on El Greco's late works.

Adoration of the Shepherds is the spectacular 10-foot-tall painting originally created to hang above his tomb in Toledo.

The elongated figures and unnatural effect of light and colour exemplify the culmination of his artistic explorations of spirituality and mysticism.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known as El Greco, was born in 1541 and trained as an icon painter in his native Crete before moving to Italy and Spain. He moved to Toledo in 1577 where he remained until his death.

El Greco will be on view at the National Gallery in London from 11 February until 23 May 2004.

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