El Greco was a person who had the courage to say no when everyone said yes. He was denounced by others because he ill-advisedly criticized Michelangelo’s abilities as a painter remarking that “he was a good person but did not understand how to paint.” What happened to the painter who believed that he was better than Michelangelo?
When the Greek artist arrived in Rome, Michelangelo and Raphael had already passed away but were still highly influential. Young artists were occupied with copying the styles of the old masters. El Greco, who pursued an unique style of his own, was not happy about this. He suggested to the Pope that he would paint a better mural on top of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement,” which angered the people. He had no choice but to leave Rome.
In 1577, the artist moved to Toledo, Spain, and lived there for 37 years creating numerous masterpieces. This painting was his last one, created to decorate his family’s gravestone in a church. Many artists created paintings on the theme of Jesus’ birth, but his paintings were different from his predecessors. Baby Jesus lies on a white cloth laid above Mary’s lap. Joseph, three shepherds, and an ox worship the Holy Child, while angels in the sky celebrate the birth. Most striking is their distorted bodies. Unlike Renaissance paintings that emphasized ideal bodies of perfect proportion, the bodies are eerily. stretched out. Bold colors, dynamic composition, distorted bodies and strong contrast between light and dark are the unique features of El Greco.
Such religious paintings were shocking and disturbing to people back in the 16th century. However, his artistic values and originality had a significant impact on cubism in the 20th century. He was not as successful as Michelangelo, but his unconventional artistic style was way ahead of the times- almost four hundred years.