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Echoes of El Greco

Exhibition at the Prado


With the closing this last June of the major but brief exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum in Toledo, the year of El Greco seemed to languish. This was just a momentary mirage, however, for now the Prado Museum has inaugurated a no less important retrospective that is to be on view up to 25 October. Curated by Javier Barón, El Greco and Modern Painting tracks the footprints that the works of the Crete-born painter has left on later artists, as well as on the historiography on the subject, threading the model and its interpreters through a fertile comparative analysis. Of course it begins with the ‘discovery’ of El Greco at some point in the mid-19th century and his conversion – a rather arbitrary one, as explained in Fernando Marías’s detailed study on the artist – by historians like Barrès or Cossio and painters including Ignacio Zuloaga into a symbol of the ‘Spanish spirit’. It continues with a look at the avant-gardes, in particular Pablo Picasso – in whose painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon many people like to find echoes of The Opening of the Fifth Seal – but also other European masters: first Paul Cézanne, and later the expressionists of Der Blaue Reiter (Wassily Kandinsky or Franz Marc) and the group of Richter or Meidner, whose contorted figures bring to mind the no less pathetic forms of the Toledo Laocoonte. ‘El Greco Year’ does not end here: besides the exhibition currently on view in Valencia on the architectural facet of the painter from Crete (see pages 56), El Greco: Art and Skill will be reopening in Toledo this coming 8 September.

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