There is something at once unsettling and gratifying in the phenomenon of a great artist resisting the categories of art history and of art historians. His art, refusing to accommodate itself to established historiographic structures or to fulfill standard critical expectations, insists on defining its own terms of evaluation. The artist in this case is El Greco (1541-1614), and his art is fully and magnificently presented in “El Greco of Toledo,” an exhibition organized by the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art—in conjunction with the Prado, the National Gallery of Art, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts—and currently on tour in this country.[1]

El Greco’s resistance to the controlling formulas of art historiography seems particularly heroic and just, for perhaps no painter of the Western tradition has been so manipulated and co-opted by his...


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