From Nov. 2, the National Gallery of Art in the U.S. capital will spotlight its seven El Greco canvases alongside four on loan from the Phillips Collection and Dumbarton Oaks in Washington and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
In New York, exhibitions dedicated to the Renaissance painter will open on Nov. 4 at the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection.
Born Domenikos Theotokopoulos on the Greek island of Crete, El Greco worked in Venice and Rome before settling in Spain, notably in Toledo, where he adopted his now-famous nickname.
Virtually forgotten after his death in 1614, he was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. His work appeared in the Louvre in Paris, and he was embraced by such modern artists as Picasso, Cezanne and the German expressionists.
His profile in the United States was due in good part to a buying frenzy among rich American collectors, said David Alan Brown, curator of the Washington exhibition.
“They competed with each other, all these millionaires,” he added. “There was a kind of Greco craze. That is one reason why they are so many Grecos in the United States.”
All told, about 50 works by El Greco are held by museums in about 20 cities around the country.
Famous for his elongated silhouettes, the artist “was not always successful,” Brown said.
“His work was so extreme that some people did not respond to it, and other people responded strongly,” he said.
“He’s an artist that always provokes strong reactions. No one can be indifferent to El Greco.”
Brown added: “It’s a very personal, visionary style.”
“El Greco’s art was never simple; it has the spiritual intensity of the counter-Reformation but also pictorially a very complicated vision. That’s what appeals to us today.”
To accompany the exhibition, the National Gallery has produced a 30-minute documentary.
In Spain, dozens of events have been taking place this year to mark the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death.
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