Jan 072008

I would like to take the idea of electricity from the previous review and see how it fits into this landscape (hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York — an interesting thematic essay on this website). The raptured, electrified sky casts a distinct white glow on the city below. The turbulent weather instills a sense of fear and danger. The view presents an unwelcoming sight, which, however, conceals a certain charm and mystery — a fairy tale narrative quality that lures the beholder inside the vision. The composition plays an important role in this seduction: the line of the wall chalks out the ascent, where the cathedral and the royal palace appear to almost touch the stormy skies (curiously reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night). The gable  leads to a lightning, which resembles an explosion, or a firework. The hole right in the middle of the cloud simultaneously channels and releases the tension.

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View of Toledo, circa 159…
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The green growth in the foreground provides an antidote to the urban setting, albeit due to the dark mood it is difficult to define it as “pastoral.” Still, the artist efficiently presents the dichotomy of nature and an inhabited space, and carries through the rich idea of wilderness both tamed and intimidating. Venturing outside the city walls seems like a daunting task, but a possible one, and, a tempting one. A technical motif of chaos vs. order, obvious in the Burial of Count Orgaz, recurs: the earthly parts of the painting display accuracy and precision, the architecture and the wild growth being rendered realistically, whereas the upper part displays chaos and fantastical confusion. Randomly scattered blots of color defy the order below. Brush strokes grow bolder and wider; it appears that the artist uses these white patches as a palette, drawing color out of them to produce a ghastly whitish veil.

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The Tempest, Gallerie Del…
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I want to suggest an interesting comparison with Giorgione’s (El Greco studied in Venice earlier in his career) The Tempest, (hanging in Gallerie Dell’Accademia, Venice — in Italian), which contains exactly the same set of features. There is the thundercloud and lightning, a city, and a creek below (Britannica full article about Giorgione). There is a major point that distinguishes it from El Greco’s piece: the man and the woman on both sides of the river. If we view one painting as an allegorical commentary of the other, we may arrive at the notion that these works deal with the female and male principle; with masculinity and femininity as the two opposites that produce electrical charge, and which may imply countless variations on the theme of order and chaos.

  One Response to “El Greco: View of Toledo”

  1. Toledo is preparing to commemorate the 4th centenary of the death of “El Greco”

    There will be many great events that you can check at http://www.elgreco2014.com

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