Stoenescu, Livia – abstract

Reactions to El Greco’s 400th Anniversary and the Dynamics of Retrospection and Modernism

Livia Stoenescu

Texas A & M University, College Station, TX

Launched in 2014, the novel perspectives on El Greco’s work and historical identity have called attention to a relevant case study for the dynamics between exhibitions and artistic monographs. The monographic exhibitions and their attendant catalogues – which were all dedicated to the 400th anniversary of his death and were held in Greece, Spain, the USA, and Germany – marked a critical step forward in the liberation from the lingering contexts of iconography and patronage that have curtailed the ways in which art historians and curators alike examined El Greco’s art and career since the pioneering efforts of Manuel Cossío in the early twentieth century.

The International Conferences, Exhibitions, and Monographs “El Greco from Crete to Venice, to Rome, to Toledo” at Athens’s Benaki Museum, November 2014; “El Greco” at Madrid’s Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, May 2014; “El Greco: 400 years after” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, March and November 2014, and others, signaled a kinship with novel art-historical directions in El Greco studies and with the development of the modern museum as an interactive medium for both virtual and physical display.

By focusing on the Athens and Washington DC monographic exhibitions – while also assessing those held in Madrid and in Japan (2012) – this paper sets out to reveal the characteristic features of an invigorating approach to El Greco, which emerged in light of the 2014 exhibitions. Specifically, the paper seeks to analyze: first, El Greco as the spokesman for the global artist and the globalizing trends which he advocated not by regimenting himself and his art to contemporary practices, but rather by blurring boundaries among territories and cultures; secondly, El Greco as a unique voice to recalibrate a feeble balance between Western and non-Western cultures by means of his fusing Crete, Italy, and Spain into an idiosyncratic whole; last but not least, El Greco as an early modernist with choices distinct from the mainstream of Italian Renaissance Art.