El Greco: The Bivalent Artist

Since the ‘rediscovery’ of El Greco in the early 20 th century, he has been the object both of intense scholarship and romantic accounts, many more fictional than real. Reliable information about him has trickled in slowly, based on archival research and technical analyses, but many gaps in our knowledge remain, especially regarding his formative years in Crete and Italy. His originality lies in a unique ability to synthesize a Byzantine spirituality with the more naturalistic style – and completely new techniques - learned from Titian, Tintoretto, Michelangelo and others in Italy. He retained a sense of his Greek identity and used it as a selling point: notably while trying to succeed alongside these great Renaissance masters, he continued to sign his full name in Greek. The challenge for a new biography is to convey his mystique to a modern audience, showing how his bicultural background acted as a catalyst for his creativity and freed him to develop his own style.


Penelope Gardner-Chloros is a Visiting Fellow at OCLW and Professor Emerita of Linguistics at Birkbeck, University of London, where she specialised in Sociolinguistics, Language Contact and Bilingualism. She is the author of Language Selection and Switching in Strasbourg (1991, OUP) and Code-switching (2009, CUP) and various edited volumes. She has written journal articles on topics including minority languages, youth language in Paris, pronouns of address (‘tu/vous’ systems), bilingual operator verbs, code-switching in literature, the language of young Greek Cypriots in London and Syrian refugees on Facebook. In 2007-8 she took a Diploma in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute, followed by an MA in Renaissance Art, specialising in Venice, at Warwick in 2017-18. She now combines her two interests by studying bilingual and bicultural artists, for example the Pissarro family and Van Gogh. At OCLW she is working on a biography of another bilingual artist, El Greco (1541-1614).