“The Burial of Count Orgaz, from a Legend of 1323” is universally considered to be the masterpiece of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known as El Greco. A frequent painter of religious themes, El Greco (1541 – 1614) depicted heaven in this piece with swirling, abstract clouds and elongated, ethereal saints. In contrast, he gave the earthly figures below normal proportions. Displaying masterly portraiture, this work illustrates the legend of St. Augustine and St. Stephen laying Count Orgaz in his tomb in return for his generosity to the church. Including himself in this piece, El Greco can be seen above an upraised hand of the earthly group.
Visionary artist El Greco—born Domenikos Theotokopoulos—was three centuries ahead of his time. A Greek who lived in Toledo, Spain, El Greco (1541 – 1614) exaggerated the Mannerist style of replacing realistic portrayals of the world with personal interpretations. A painter of mesmerizing religious and mystical works filled with chilly colors and flamelike figures, El Greco only utilized light for emotional impact. He also created compelling portraits, and Europe’s first true landscapes. El Greco strongly influenced 20th-century Modernists including Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.