Domenicos Theotocopoulos, otherwise known as El Greco, was born in Crete in 1541 and died in 1614, Domenicos was a talented Cretan painter, architect, and sculptor. He was given the name El Greco, translated literally as “the Greece”, because he was born on the island of Crete in 1521 and at that time Crete belonged to Greece. El Greco lived on the island of Crete until the age of 25 when he left to explore the world. In Venice, El Greco worked under Titian who was considered the Great Master of Venice. After a couple of years in Venice, El Greco moved to Rome and studied the works of Michelangelo and Raphael.
By 1577, El Greco settled in Toledo, Spain where he lived the rest of his life. In Spain El Greco mostly painted pictures for religious foundations and portraits. A large amount of El Greco’s paintings were made for Toledo and its neighborhood where he produced many versions of his most famous pieces during his career. Although El Greco’s art had started to become manneristic, which can be defined as an artistic style of the late 16th century characterized by distortion of elements such as scale and perspective, it was still greatly influenced by the Byzantine-Greek religious style.
El Greco announced his Cretan origins by signing all of his artwork with Greek characters. El Greco had also received a commission from King Phillip II for the Escorial which is a group of many complex buildings located thirty-one miles northwest of Madrid. The Escorial was the conception of King Phillip II and includes a convent, a church, a palace, a library and a mausoleum for the Spanish monarchy. El Greco painted an altarpiece of The Martyrdom of St. Maurice for the church at the new monastery-palace of El Escorial but King Phillip was not fond of the work and placed it in a different part of the building and hired another artist to paint the replacement for the altar. The king disliked the work because of the emphasis of the characters in the foreground. El Greco never worked for King Phillip II again. Although he did not keep the commission with the king, El Greco worked in the Toledo Cathedral in the town where he was living. One of his paintings, The Disrobing of Christ, was the first of many lawsuits brought by the artist against his patrons.
The patrons had felt that Greco was charging too much for his work and they were refusing to pay. But these problems did not prevent El Greco from becoming a successful artist. No other western artist moved mentally as El Greco did from the flat, stiff, symbolic style of the Byzantine time period to the new world-embracing, humanistic vision of Renaissance painting. El Greco created legacy of significantly influential art that would change the perspective of other artists during the Renaissance time period and many artists after him.