Skip to main content

El Greco and Francisco Goya: Two Master Painters at the Prado

All types of artwork are on view in many places throughout Houston and the surrounding areas. You may enjoy seeing this photographed piece.

Christ Carrying the Cross by El Greco on view in the Prado Museum

Christ Carrying the Cross by El Greco on view in the Prado Museum

Visiting the Prado Museum

The Prado Museum is the depository for Spanish art in the world that has no equal. It is massive and filled with wondrous works of art. After many hours of being transfixed in front of one fantastic painting after another, we left the museum. When we exited the Prado and discussed it, we agreed that we felt we had experienced sensory overload. My husband and I both appreciate art and have visited many museums in the past.

This reaction was something new to both of us. The sheer size of some of the paintings, especially the El Greco paintings, perhaps added to our feelings of being overwhelmed. Maybe it was the religious subject matter adding to the overall effect? Suffice it to say that it left its mark on both of us.

If we ever return to Madrid, you can be sure that another visit to the Prado Museum will be on our desired list of things to do. As long as one does not use flash photography, pictures are allowed inside the Prado Museum. This rule amazed us because many museums outlaw the taking of photos with or without the flash.

El Greco

Domenikos Theotokopoulos became well known worldwide as El Greco - The Greek. His magnificent works of art and other masters such as Velazquez, Goya, and many others are on view inside the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

El Greco was born in Crete and trained as an artist in Italy. He had been a pupil of the artist Titian. In addition to being influenced by his teacher, Tintoretto and Michelangelo also affected how he ultimately expressed himself on canvas.
He settled in Toledo, Spain, when he was in his mid-thirties.

Great religious spirit dominated Spain during that era. His massive canvasses portray paintings expressing his ideas of Christianity. We saw a significant number of them in the Prado Museum, but we also saw huge numbers of his masterpiece paintings that remain to this day in his adopted city of Toledo, where he created many of them.

One thing striking in El Greco's paintings and very recognizable is his use of elongated figures. This realism with a twist is very creative. Was this due to his zealous religious spirit painting in that dramatic way or astigmatism in his eyes affecting his vision? We can only speculate.

The distorted body shapes assume even larger-than-life proportions when standing in front of one of those massive paintings. They are awe-inspiring!

You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul and put to sword those who would try to steal it.

— El Greco

Influence of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church ruled the ways people lived and died, including controlling most of the land and intellectual life. Having gone through the Spanish Inquisition, where suppression of heresy was the goal, religious fervor was still at an all-time high in Toledo when El Greco painted his towering canvasses. Velazquez had painted the Royalty in the Capitol of Spain during their waning days of power.

The works of art by El Greco, Velazquez, and Francisco Goya fill the second floor of the Prado Museum with their spectacular paintings. They each portrayed the life and times in Spain during their lives with their individualized styles of painting.

Francisco Goya

The artist Francisco Goya came from a background of poverty and isolation. He was born in the village of Fuendetodos, in the province of Aragon, on March 30, 1746. Goya ended up living in Madrid by the age of seventeen.

Like Velazquez, the background of Goya's family was from the hidalgo class. It was the lowest order of Spanish nobility but forbade its members to do any manual labor.

It was in a time of economic upheaval countrywide. Poor sanitary conditions and stagnant living conditions, in general, were the norm. The Church's influence pretty much assured the continuance of just barely livable conditions. Most people's lives were pretty bleak.

Goya escaped this mired existence by being an artist and painter, thus having upward mobility. He grabbed the chance, and because he had great talent, he succeeded. We can see with Goya's paintings and etchings representations of what was swirling around him in his country of Spain. He featured both the pretty and the ugly events and happenings.

Due to an illness, he became deaf at the age of 46.

Goya amazingly painted one of the best-known nude paintings of the time, The Naked Maja and The Clothed Maja. That was amazing for this reason. The Inquisition was still in full swing, and he could have ended up in jail and had his paintings banned. Speculation has it that one of his wealthy and influential patrons probably came to his defense and, in effect, rescued him from more dire results meted out from the Church.

Goya painted beautiful portraits of wealthy patrons. He also painted grotesque creatures that showed the dark side of human nature. Francisco Goya's art actively engages one. His creations foreshadowed the modern art movement.

Other Artist's Work

Here are some other photos from the day my husband and I were on a guided tour inside the Prado Museum. This museum is a vast treasure trove holding not only the world-renowned Spanish art of Velazquez, El Greco, and Francisco Goya but is the repository for many other great artists' work as well.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods