NY Met Explores Spiritual Vibrancy of El Greco

( [email protected] ) Oct 11, 2003 02:47 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- For the first time in 20 years, “El Greco” will be available for view to United States patrons of the art. The exhibit featuring the life, works and influence of El Greco, will appear briefly at the Met in New York through January 11. Composed of about 70 works from institutions around the world, painting from the end of El Greco’s career will be highlighted.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as “El Greco” (The Greek), worked as a religious icon painter before moving to Italy in 1567 and then to Spain in 1576, where he died in 1614, in his early 70s. His posthumous fame came through the originality and intensity in which he captured the spiritual essence of his subjects.

"In terms of religious painting, it is a search for the spiritual as opposed to the material," said David Davies, an El Greco scholar who is guest curator of the exhibit.

"I want to show El Greco at his best. ... His development shows how he continually explored new ideas to seek the essence of the subject."

Two of the featured works, “The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception” and “The Adoration of the Shepherds,” have never been shown outside of Spain. The latter, a 10-foot tall work El Greco painted for his own tomb reflected the vibrancy of his style.

His paintings will be grouped together in similar subjects placed in a chronological sequence. In doing so, viewers can see the changes of his approach in illustration over time.

"By seizing on the same subject, the viewer is made acutely aware of the transformation of this artist," Christiansen said.

A section of the exhibit is devoted to El Greco’s portraits, in which he tried not only to capture the physical likeness of his subjects, but also some expression of their inner character. His subjects ranged from friends and admirers to religious figures.

"El Greco's religious paintings are really about the world of the imagination," Christiansen said. "His portraits put that imagination with reality. ... It's the one aspect of his career where you feel that the artist is in touch with the world of everyday experience."

The museum will host a series of lectures, gallery talks and other programs to coincide with the show. A 320-page catalog will be available in November.