Chasing the Greek in Toledo

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April 29, 2013 by ebostick1212

As my spontaneous weekend trip to Toledo comes to a close, I am heady, from the delicious fresh air, the medieval beauty, and the fact I walked the same streets as one of my favorite artists, El Greco.

El Greco, a hidden self-portrait in El entierro de Señor de Orgaz

El Greco, a hidden self-portrait in El entierro de Señor de Orgaz

El Greco, or The Greek, as known to his Spanish counterparts, was a bit like me in some ways. Born in Crete, he wandered around Europe rather nomadically, honing his craft, until he decided to settle in Toledo.  I can see why he chose this city…it is absolutely breath-taking, and there is something interesting to see around every corner.


I felt a bit like one of those Beatles girls in the 1960’s.  ‘Paul touched my hand…I’m never washing it again!‘  Except for me, it wasn’t the Beatles.  It was the famed Greek of Toledo.  I feel lucky to have gotten to see the proclaimed home town of someone who’s paintings make me weak in the knees.

I remember going to New York City with my high school art history class, for special exposition on El Greco.  We first stopped off at the Metropolitan, and I drudged through, not paying much attention to any of the other artists.  To me, most of the old artwork seemed the same.  Perfect, smooth brush strokes layering paint, in order to manifest some sort photo-like portrayal.  Beautiful, but in my opinion, not interesting.

Something shifted when I saw my first El Greco.  His paintings had movement, color, and interesting compositions.  I couldn’t believe someone in the 1500’s painted something so…rebellious.  They weren’t perfect, and that, in my mind, made them perfect.  They didn’t look like all the other paintings, and my hungry eyes devoured them, one by one, slowly and meticulously.

Needless to say, I was a bit star-struck.  At his house and museum, I had the opportunity to get close to some of his works, and I had a similar experience to that in New York City, circa 2002.  I spent a good amount of time, getting to know each of the paintings, without regard to the time, or the others standing behind me.  (Oops.).

I also went to the Iglesia San Tomé, to see El Greco’s chef d’oeuvre.  El entierro del señor de Orgaz  is perhaps his most well known painting, and it is housed in a tiny church in the Judería of Toledo.  This is a painting I could have spent hours in front of, trying to figure out what he was thinking about when he was working on it. Unfortunately there was a large group of noisy French teenagers leaning on the protective railing while I was trying to get a good look.  I didn’t see as much of it as I would have liked, but I like to think of this as a reason to return to Toledo.

While walking the curling, medieval streets, I was constantly thinking ‘Am I perhaps looking at something that could have inspired the master, himself?’ Of course, I will never get an answer, but it did add a romantic quality to my solo strolls.

As strange as it sounds, I have come away from this weekend with much better understanding of one of my favorite artists.  I feel like I got to know him, through seeing ‘his’ city.  While everyone else seems to go to Toledo to find Don Quijote, I went to find El Greco…and I found him.

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