Mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, El Greco is a painter whose works have congruity with Nick's view of the East after Gatsby's death, evident in Chapter 9 on page 178. Nick references his view of the east to a painting by El Greco, similar to the painting shown above. Nick mentions El Greco's "...hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky..." (Fitzgerald 178). This view is of El Greco's work is fitting, and ties the work of this Counter-Reformist painter from the sixteenth century to the ideas of Nick in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby more than three centuries later.
The painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos was born on the island of Crete in 1541. Growing up in Crete, Theotokopoulos was influenced by the works of Titian and Tintoretto, who were known for freedom in their style and loose manner in which they painted (Tour 1). Upon moving to Rome, Theotokopoulos worked with the ideas of artists such as Michelangelo, who influenced him with his use of bizarre colors and elongated figures. Using the style of Mannerism that he acquired, Theotokopoulos moved to Spain because of a failure to gain work and commissions in Italy, and there acquired the name El Greco, meaning "the Greek", as he establish his own unique style of Mannerism combining the Italian influence of colors and elongation with the free style he had learned during his childhood in Crete.
As Fitzgerald always finds a way to do, there is symbolic choice for the work of El Greco to be chosen as a description for the way that Nick views the east and what he has known. The loose and elongated figures and free colors shy away from definite or fixed images, making the picture a group of loosely related events that together create a scene, such as the events of the summer in West Egg are loose and infinite, but when pieced together they create a shape. The looseness also helps to allude to a personís memory, as the events are not exactly as they have occurred but may loosely resemble the truth. The nature of Mannerism and the works of El Greco also add to this symbolic use by Fitzgerald. Mannerism is known for its rejection of realistic portrayals of reality for more subjective and free-spirited ones. This subjective portrayal of reality is also seen in The Great Gatsby as the wealth and high-society lifestyle of the 1920s is subjectively portrayed by corruption and decay.
In choosing to refer to the works of El Greco, ones like the one seen above, Fitzgerald was able to allude to an artist who painted over three hundred years before the book was written. In referring to El Grecoís work, Fitzgerald was able to incorporate the artist style and meaning into his novel, and quickly yet effectively added extra meaning to his novel for readers to discover and enjoy.
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Scott. "The Great Gatsby". New York:
MacMillan, 1980. p. 164-182.
"Tour: El Greco Overview". National Gallery of Art. Available 22 Jan 2004: http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg29/gg29-over1.html