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View of Toledo by El Greco
View of Toledo by El Greco

View of Toledo, 1598

El Greco

This painting looks so modern it’s hard to believe it was painted in the late 1500s. An intense, threatening sky full of clouds is about to crack open and unleash a storm on the city of Toledo, Spain. It’s an apocalyptic sky, infused with the fearsome, god-like power of nature over the human world. The buildings seem to crawl across the painting, and curving lines throughout the hill give the impression that the landscape is moving and alive, reflecting the dramatic motion of the sky. Rather than telling us what Toledo looked like, El Greco communicates a sense of psychological or spiritual conflict.

Credit
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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