As the keeper of the largest collection of El Greco works in the U.S., the National Gallery of Art will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the master’s death with a presentation of 11 of his paintings from its own and other D.C.-area collections. Born Doménikos Theotokópoulos on the island of Crete, El Greco earned his nickname, “the Greek,” while studying in Italy and working in Spain. After supposedly getting chased out of Italy for criticizing Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (and going so far as offering to paint over it), El Greco moved to Toledo, Spain, further developing his almost modernist style, combining Byzantine (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) traditions in his paintings of elongated figures with stark contrasts in colors, light, and shadow. Because of the highly emotional effects of his works (his saints look truly tortured), El Greco became one of the key artists of the Counter-Reformation, but he was largely forgotten after his death. A rediscovery of El Greco’s works more than 150 years later had a marked influence on groundbreakers like Cezanne, Picasso, and even Jackson Pollock. One of the most original artists of his time, El Greco truly deserves celebrating. Nov. 2–Feb. 16 at the National Gallery of Art. Free.

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