El Greco’s ‘View of Toledo’

28 Apr

When I first saw this painting, I could not believe it was painted at around 1595-1610. because it’s so sharp, impulsive, dark and expressionistic; it’s so unlike any other painting of the time. Though the style of this painting is a striking resemblance to 20th century Expressionism, historically it is an example of Mannerism.

Alongside Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and some of Turner’s and Monet’s landscapes, this painting is one of the best known depictions of the sky in Western art. This is not a typical landscape, it’s rather expressionistic for it shows the painter’s view of Toledo, a town he lived in most of his life, and not a faithful depiction of the town. Enigmatic symbolism of the painting could be connected to the mystic spirit the town was surrounded with those days. Also, isolated landscapes are rare in Spanish Renaissance and even Baroque paintings, thus making El Greco the first Spanish landscaper.

I am just so intrigued by this painting; the sky looks so powerful, so raw and so threatening while the buildings of Toledo look static, gloomy and solitary. Grey buildings are in contrast with the vivid green nature that exceeds in brown shades, even black in the background. Trees and bushes look so crooked and strange as if they are whispering a curse. I am writing a story set in an isolated castle (in England actually not Toledo haha) and this painting is my main inspiration for describing the nature.

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