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The Annunciation. In this essay, I will compare and contrast two of such paintings to demonstrate how El Greco evolved artistically over time

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Compare and contrast two paintings of your choice under the headings composition, space, form, tone, colour, subject matter and historical context. The Annunciation'- the moment where, according to Christian belief, the Virgin Mary is visited by the archangel Gabriel and informed that she will bear the Son of God - was a favourite theme of Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614), more famously known as 'El Greco'. He was born in Crete but eventually settled in Toledo, Spain and through the course of his career produced several variations on this subject. In this essay, I will compare and contrast two of such paintings to demonstrate how El Greco evolved artistically over time and attained the trademark qualities, which have transformed him into one of the greatest and most original painters in history. The first of these paintings dates from 1576 1 and was completed just before El Greco left Rome for Spain. Thus, this earlier The Annunciation, or EA for short, was created at a turning point in El Greco's career, where his original formation in the Byzantine icon painting tradition had been supplemented by further artistic education in Venice and Rome. ...read more.


and Gabriel who gazes down reverently, poised on a puff of cloud. In EA, the Virgin's surprise is captured as she sits in her room, whereas in LA, we are not quite sure where she is; we see a hint of the dais, the steps, and the weaving basket, but otherwise she is very much surrounded by the same mysterious swirl of clouds as the celestial beings. In line with the norms of sixteenth century Italian painting, El Greco uses linear and aerial perspective in EA to convey depth. We can see how the rows of floor tiles transform into a sloping, nondescript stretch of plane, which converges towards a vanishing point. Similarly, space is created by the warmer colours in the foreground, which project towards the spectator and the cool, light blue sky, which recedes into the background. In LA, however, there is no spatial depth and no such perspectival tools can be perceived, save for the foreshortened wings of the angel and the white dove - the latter rendered so extremely that it almost pierces through the picture plane. ...read more.


Although the Virgin was traditionally depicted in blue, El Greco elects to clad her in cool, madder red in LA (though still adding a midnight-blue cape), which along with the other splashes of vermilion, orange, and incandescent yellow, stand out sharply from the ashen backdrop to create chromatic tension, underscoring the spiritual drama of the narrative achieved by all the other pictorial elements we have looked at. This comparison of these two paintings clearly illustrates just how much El Greco's style evolved over the years and reflects the many-faceted influences he came under, culminating in an idiosyncratic style characterized by elongated figures, mystical and supernatural realms, compressed space and exaggerated contrasts in tone and colour. He had no qualms about rejecting norms of proportion, perspective and form if these did not support his pursuit for an intensely personal artistic expression. The rediscovery of his work in the late 19th century and his subsequent influence on the likes of Delacroix, Picasso and Pollock are a testament to the fact that El Greco was most definitely an artist ahead of his time. ...read more.

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