One of the most important figures in the world history of painting, Domenikos Theotokopoulos was born in Venetian Candia (as Heraklion was then known), probably in 1541.
His first steps in learning how to paint were taken there. By the time he left for Italy, at only 20 years of age, he seems to have already fully mastered the skills and practices of the Byzantine approach to art.
In Venice, his first port of call in Italy, he was taught by Titian: he perfected his knowledge of Western art, adopting aspects of Mannerism. After a short stay in Rome, he settled in Toledo, Spain in 1577: it was here he produced his greatest works. He never abandoned his Cretan roots – all his works are signed ‘Domenikos Theotokopoulos of Crete painted (this)’.
His style contains many elements of the Venetian School and of the Mannerism of the second half of the 16th century: but also a considerable amount of his personal vision and approach.
His work brings together elements of both Eastern and Western traditions. In later times he has been seen as a precursor, influencing the path of modern art.
The Museum of El Greco is at (or just outside of) Fodele, a village some 29 km to the west of Herakleion: from where his father came. The Museum features a collection of El Greco’s work, all copies.
In Herakleion, at the Bethlehem gate in the Venetian walls, is another small exhibition (also copies) of his work, as well as costumes from the film 'El Greco' by G. Smaragdis.
Two of his original works are to be found in the Historical Museum of Crete in Herakleion: ‘The Baptism of Christ’ (1567) and ‘View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery’ (1570).