Domenikos Theotokopoulos was born in Venetian Candia (as Heraklion was then known), in 1541 and is one of the most important figures in the history of painting.
Crete is where he took his first steps in learning how to paint and 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. This is where 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 and all his works are signed “Domenikos Theotokopoulos of Crete painted (this)“. His style contains many elements of the Venetian School and the style of Mannerism popularized during the second half of the 16th century. At the same time there are unique elements and a considerable amount of input that is unique to the painter. His work brings together elements of both Eastern and Western traditions. In later times he was seen as a precursor, influencing the path of modern art especially when it comes to Expressionism and Cubism.
The Museum of El Greco is located in the small village of Fodele, some 29 km to the west of Heraklion; this is where his father came from. The Museum features a collection of El Greco’s work, all copies. Here you can get a better idea of his influences during his youth. In Heraklion, at the Bethlehem gate in the Venetian walls, there is another small exhibition with more copies of his work, as well as costumes from the film ‘El Greco’ by G. Smaragdis. Two of his original works are exhibited in the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion, ‘The Baptism of Christ’ (1567) and ‘View of Mount Sinai and the Monastery’ (1570). His work draws heavily from religious subjects, especially Greek Orthodoxy and helped to establish his reputation and make him one of the most influential figures.