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El Greco Headline

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That singular figure in Western art El Greco (1541-1614), who was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos on the island of Crete, was all but forgotten by 1800. It took 19th-century Romanticism to revive him. A century later, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock revered his later paintings, those expressive statements of Counter-Reformation zeal he made in Toledo, Spain. When El Greco, the first major retrospective of the artist in more than 20 years, opens October 7 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it will include examples from every phase of his career, from extremely rare early icon paintings made in Crete to the masterworks from Toledo. The comprehensive show will highlight the late paintings—but not to demonstrate their influence on modern artists. "It was in the late paintings that El Greco became most fully his own," explains Keith Christiansen, a Met curator who helped organize the show. Although the artist had studied in Venice, where he came under the influence of Titian and Tintoretto, "El Greco's late works repudiate many of the tenets of Renaissance art about space and verisimilitude in favor of the spiritual fervor of the time," Christiansen says. "He returned to many of the religious concerns of his youth. One will see that his life comes full circle."

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