El Greco, a painter accustomed to constant change since his early days as an icon painter, had no difficulty adapting his style to assimilate new techniques.
He decided to leave Crete in order to learn more about western European painting. That innate curiosity and ability to evolve led him to develop a unique language of his own when he settled in Spain.
During his Italian period, he used white or light grey grounds that lent luminosity and freshness to the general tone of his colour palette.
After moving to Spain, he used layers of primer or reddish-brown grounds with a darker tinge, one of the methods he had undoubtedly learned in Venice.
His working method consisted in layering colours mixed with a significant amount of white (white lead) or even pure white in the most brightly-lit areas, and applying tinted glazes to the figures and elements he
wished to emphasise, allowing the tone of the primer or ground layer, which is visible in many areas, to create a pictorial effect.
The following sections describe our study of El Greco's pictorial technique, analysing the distribution and composition of the materials and how they evolved through the four works by the artist in our collection.
In order to understand the end result of his efforts, we must learn how he painted and the methods he used when working, and the best way to do this is by determining how and when each layer was applied to his paintings.