Have I told you that I used to live opposite the mortal remains of illustrious 16th century painter, El Greco?
On top of one of Toledo's steepest hills, in a convent struggling to maintain its religious order, his remains were displayed (rather indecorously I thought) beneath a glass panel in something resembling a shoebox.
I lived on the other side of the square, in a decaying century mansion along with the mOnk, a vicious ginger cat with the Biblical name of Leah, and assorted neighbours including some partly itinerant Portuguese gypsies.
Clearly this was the immigrant 'barrio' - El Greco and the African nun that tended to his remains being no exception.
Despite what you might think, El Greco, was not the painter's name at all (it was Domenikos Theotokópoulos) but a Spanish adaptation of his Italian nickname 'the Greek’.
Mediterraneans, bless their hearts, do say it like it is - especially if the alternative is pronouncing something very long in another language and regardless of the exact geography; El Greco was from Crete.
The rain in Spain
It rained heavily that year.
I remember it particularly as it came in on the stairs outside the door of our flat and turned to ice.
El Greco must have seen some rain in his time before the shoebox as well. He certainly knew how to paint clouds.
One of Toledo's wonders is the snaking road reached by crossing a bridge to the oppposite side of the valley over which it presides. From there you can contemplate the city's contours which have changed little from when El Greco would have done the same to paint his dramatic landscape.
Only Toledo's silhouette doesn't quite look like the painting; El Greco used his full artist's license when it came to the placement of the buildings.
El Greco - Modern artist, trapped in the past
The thing I didn't get to grips with about El Greco - until much after we stopped being neighbours - was that he was essentially a modern painter trapped in the wrong time.
The idea of El Greco as a precursor of modern art was developed by the German art critic, Meier-Graefe who considered that there were great similarities between El Greco's work and that of Cézanne, Manet, Renoir and Degas.
(In fact Édouard Manet travelled to Toledo in 1865 to study El Greco's work.)
The clouds in View of Toledo are certainly worthy of any Impressionist 300 hundred years later. To say nothing of that tree in the foreground.
Take your hat off, Cezanne.
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