View of Toledo (original title Vista de Toledo), is one of the two surviving landscapes painted by El Greco. The other, View and Plan of Toledo, is on display at the Museo de El Greco in Toledo. View of Toledo is among the best known depictions of the sky in Western art, along with Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and the landscapes of J. M. W. Turner and Claude Monet, among others.
Most notable is the distinct color contrast between the dark and somber skies above and the glowing green hills below. While influenced by the Mannerist style, El Greco’s expressive handling of color and form is without parallel in the history of art.
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In this painting, he takes liberties with the actual layout of Toledo insofar as certain building locations are re-arranged. However, the location of the Castle of San Servando, on the left, is accurately depicted. El Greco’s signature appears in the lower-right corner.
Landscape paintings are often meant to document the look of a particular time in a particular place, to freeze a single moment and preserve it for eternity. El Greco’s View of Toledo does not do that. Although the large church is placed in the correct place in the city, El Greco changed the locations of several other buildings, proving that documentation was not the artist’s primary concern.
Rather than telling us what Toledo looked like, here, El Greco communicates what the city feels like. Toledo becomes the means through which the artist expresses an interior psychological state, and perhaps, a view about the nature of man’s relationship with the divine.