View of Toledo is a landscape oil painting made by El Greco in 1599. El Greco, a Spanish painter, sculptor and architect, is regarded as a precursor of Expressionism and Cubism, inspiring and influencing many artists such as Pablo Picasso. At that time, Toledo was the religious capital of Spain, and the place where El Greco created many great artworks until his death.
As one of the two surviving painting of El Greco, View of Toledo is among the best known depictions of the sky in Western art, along with some landscapes by William Turner and Monet, and The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. In the painting, El Greco had chosen the angle of view that overlooking the city. There are many usual elements of a landscape painting in it, sky, hills, trees, roads, buildings, and a river. But it is quite different from many other classical landscapes works. It’s painted in a Mannerist, or Baroque style, featuring a sharp color contrast between the upper sky and the hills below. The sky is covered by dark clouds, with bright lighting flashing through, as if a heavy storm is coming on. The castle and Cathedral tower are standing upright on the hill. The River Rio Tajo is flanked by trees, which is now still running west to east across Spain and Portugal into Atlantic Ocean.
El Greco regarded color as the most important element of paintings. In the View of Toledo, there are four main colors, black, white, green and pain blue. The sharp contrast of colors adds more tension to the painting, together with the brushstrokes, breaking the static state of the quietness. At the same time, the View of Toledo is enlivened with mysterious and dynamic atmosphere, as if the clouds and trees are moving with the wind. The primacy of imagination and intuition is El Greco’s discipline and style. In fact, the layout of Toledo in the painting is not strictly conformed to that in reality. Some buildings are depicted in different positions than actual location, such as the position of the Cathedral. It is rather a space created by El Greco than a direct copy of the scene or moment, interpreting deeper into the painter’s thought and soul.