Great Painters – El Greco

More intensive study should take note of the three different periods in his life. An example of the first is the Trinity (824) —comparatively realistic in its solidly modelled figures, and comparatively superficial in its bright pattern of light, clear colors. The portraits of this period are also realistic, with healthy coloring, little distortion, soft even shadows, and accessory objects such as swords and books represented in detail. For example, A Doctor (807); Gentleman with Hand on Breast (809). The second period mingles realism with distortion, as in the Resurrection (825), with bizarre foreshortenings. Portraits, such as Unknown Man (813) dispense with nearly all accessories, and produce fantastic designs by livid coloring, by distorting the features themselves with heavy, jagged shadows in depressions of the temples and cheeks. Oddly enough, in the last period, when religious pieces like the Pentecost are most fantastic, the portraits return to realism —for example, in three entitled Unknown Man (810, 811, 812). Did his noble patrons demand better likenesses, and did he acquiesce because imaginative subjects were affording a freer outlet for experiments in form?