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Embark on a journey of discovery and enlightenment with Art Pursuits Art History Tours. Since 2003, we’ve been taking passionate art, history, architecture and culture enthusiasts on unforgettable tours throughout Europe and Asia, designed and led by experts. Experience the finest restaurants, stay in the unique, carefully selected hotels and enjoy exceptional personal service as you travel in comfort along classic Art Pursuits routes together with likeminded adventurers. Indulge in the gardens, temples and architecture of Japan with Nigel McGilchrist, explore Austria's heartland with Dr Ulrike Ziegler, or venture further afield to Jordan with Sue Rollin. The possibilities are endless with Arts Pursuits.
We have found 14 Holidays available from £1,290pp
Join our experts in Vienna, visiting the 'Renaissance in the North, Holbein, Burgkmair and the art in the Age of the Fuggers’ exhibition.
At the borders of Italy, Austria and Switzerland, the Venosta Valley has been a major thoroughfare of the Central Alps since Ancient times.
Indulge in the rich art history of the Dalmatian Coast with our expert Lecturer Leo Nikolic, venturing from ancient ruins to mediaeval villages.
Delve into Copenhagen's vast art history, exploring a number of castles, palaces and the lovely Neoclassical city centre.
Join expert Dr Sally Dormer on this exciting mediaeval exploration throughout Shropshire.
Tom Abbott leads our tour to Basel, once home to Erasmus of Rotterdam and Hans Holbein the Younger, merging tradition with cutting-edge design.
Discover Uzbekistan, centre of the Silk Road, including visits to Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, three of the most important cities.
This tour of England’s west country explores the Countries early mediaeval history, diving into the core of Alfred the Great’s kingdom, a crucial importance in the establishment of England’s Kingdom.
Join Dr Marie-Louise Lillywhite in Venice, a city of highly distinctive character, exploring a number of 15th and 16th century masterpieces.
Join Nigel McGilchrist in this unknown area of southern Italy, full of treasures of art and architecture
Explore the northern area of Italy, discovering its magnificent ancient monuments and outstanding mediaeval and Renaissance art and architecture
Join us as we travel from Burgos to León on this culturally thrilling portion of the Camino de Santiago that threads across the northern plains of Castilla y León, packed with art and architecture.
Alongside expert Sue Rollin, experience Istanbul, one of the most fascinating cities in the world, capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
The most brilliant jewels in Burgundy’s crown are monuments of mediaeval and Early Renaissance art and architecture.
Key to your enjoyment and at the heart of every Art Pursuits tour, our expert lecturers have been chosen for their specialist knowledge and impeccable academic credentials, but equally for their enthusiasm and their passion.
Carefully selected for their local knowledge, travel experience and organisational skills, our small team of friendly and experienced Tour Managers are an extension of the Art Pursuits team and are always on hand to ensure you enjoy a seamless travel experience.
Each of our unique tours has been carefully crafted with you in mind. Guided by our experts and your feedback, we have created a host of fascinating itineraries showing you the iconic 'must see' sights and lesser-known gems in some of the world's most inspiring destinations.
Travelling to and from your chosen destination is an important part of your tour, with that in mind we use flights with British Airways on most tours, and on occasion will use alternative carriers to better suit the tour. Where schedules allow we can only select flights and train departures at the most convenient times.
Living and teaching in the Mediterranean area (Italy, Turkey and Greece) for over forty years, Art Historian Nigel McGilchrist began work with the Italian Ministry of Arts in the field of wall painting conservation. He has taught for universities both in the USA and in Italy, and now lectures independently for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and for a number of other cultural organisations.. He has accompanied over eighty art and architecture tours in both Europe and Asia. With a particular interest in Buddhism and its art, and a family connection with Japan, he has taken groups to Bhutan, India, Cambodia, Thailand and Japan. He is the author of a 20-volume series of books on the art, history and architecture of the Greek Aegean Islands; and his most recently published book on Pythagoras (When the Dog speaks, the Philosopher listens) draws on the deep connections between Greek and Eastern philosophy.
Dr Justine Hopkins is a freelance lecturer and writer, specialising in art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Justine has taught for various universities, including Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and London, and lectures regularly for both Tate galleries, the V&A, the National Gallery, and numerous independent art groups.
As Director of the Early Medieval Year Course at the V&A, Sally is an expert in medieval art and history. She completed her PhD at the Courtauld Institute, and was, until recently, Dean of European Studies, a study-abroad semester for undergraduates at the University of the South and Rhodes College, TN, USA. Sally also lectures for the Art Fund, the Arts Society, and Ciceroni.
After studying History of Art at Trinity College, Cambridge, Isabelle worked as curatorial assistant of paintings at the Wallace Collection where she fell in love with teaching. She now lectures on adult courses for the V&A, Art Fund, Royal Academy and the University of Cambridge. Her book on Bartolomé Esteban Murillo in Britain was recently published by CEEH. In 2021 she returned to Cambridge where she is currently completing her PhD on the Spanish Baroque.
Tom Abbott studied psychology and art history in the US before completing his graduate research in the history of art and architecture in Berlin, where he now lives. Tom also studied at the Louvre School of Art History in Paris and has lectured around the world, specialising in architecture and art from the Renaissance to the Baroque and beyond.
Sue Rollin specialises in the ancient and Islamic Middle East, India and the Mediterranean. An archaeologist, historian and linguist by training, Sue lectures for the Arts society and the V&A and has led Study Tours in Spain, Sicily, Morocco, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Sue speaks Spanish, Italian, French and German. She is co-author of two travel guides: the Blue Guide to Jordan and Istanbul: A Traveller’s Guide.
With so much on offer, you might need some inspiration! We’ve hand-picked a selection of favourite destinations and provided an overview of the very best highlights...
Ancient art describes art created between approximately 4000 BC and 500 AD by advanced civilisations, which are generally identified by their use of an established written language, such as those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Americas, the early Chinese dynasties etc. Within this wider period, the term ‘classical’ refers specifically to art and architecture of the Greco-Roman world (c.800 BC-500 AD).
Broadly speaking, art of the ancient period was utilised for similar purposes: to share and record stories, to adorn utilitarian objects such as pottery, to celebrate and honour rulers and deities, and to emphasize wealth, status and power. Prevailing mediums and principles differ between civilisations of the ancient world. For instance, art of the classical period was largely concerned with adhering to ideals of harmony, beauty and proportion as opposed to personal expression. Although examples of prehistoric art can be dated to some 40,000 years ago, the recurring themes and motives that began to emerge during the ancient period, and which continue to echo through art today, lead many to consider the ancient period the true genesis of art history.
The term Art Nouveau describes a movement in art, design and architecture that flourished in both Europe and America between 1890 and 1910. Drawing inspiration from the natural world, the style is characterised by swirling lines and curvaceous organic forms set within an eccentric geometry. The movement was a natural progression of two previous styles, both of which rebelled against the effects of mass production in the industrial age: The Arts and Crafts movement, which elevated the status of the decorative arts and craftsmanship, and the Aesthetic movement, which promoted ‘art for art’s sake’. An additional influence was that of Japonisme – a craze for Japanese art and design – as Japanese prints and artefacts flooded the Western market following government trade agreements in the 1860s. Japanese shunga (erotic prints) were particularly influential, feeding an increasing appetite for risqué and explicit imagery that was fuelled by the recent invention of photography and a growing market for pornographic imagery. Sensuality is an important part of the Art Nouveau style and artists made the most of a general relaxation of moral attitudes across Europe, often pushing at the boundaries of the risqué and the explicit.
The Baroque style flourished in European visual culture during the 17th and 18th centuries. Although the movement shared the naturalism and often religious or mythological subject matter of the Renaissance style, it is typified by an elaborate and extravagant application of decoration; in general, Baroque artists worked to distance themselves from their Renaissance predecessors. The style was greatly encouraged by the Catholic Church, who considered it an enticing contrast to the austere Protestant art and architecture that had been popularised following the Reformation in the 16th century. Most works of the Baroque period share a common goal: to convey a heightened sense of drama. In painting this is often achieved through energetic compositions and a luminous application of colour, whilst in sculpture, dynamic forms dominate. Such drama, the Catholic church believed, would instil piety among the congregation, and a sense of awe for the church.
In the Western world, mediaeval art defines a period of some 1000 years, also known as the Middle Ages, which begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD (the eastern Roman provinces form the Byzantine Empire, a mighty power into the 11th century) and eventually ushers in the Early Renaissance at the turn of the 15th century. Petrarch, the 14th-century Italian poet and scholar, famously referred to this period as the Dark Ages, a descriptor that is frequently, and misleadingly, deployed to this day. As a great admirer of Greco-Roman society, he considered classical learning to be the ‘light’ and thus considered the period between the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire and his own lifetime (c.1330s) a period of intellectual darkness. Subsequent historians would pick up on this idea, identifying the period as a ‘middle’ point between the end of antiquity and the rebirth of classical learning in the Renaissance.
However, the mediaeval period is a crucial bridge between these periods. As the Eastern Roman Empire splintered into various smaller feudal kingdoms, many artistic styles and periods emerged. Although these are difficult to concisely define, broadly speaking they include early Christian and Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon and Viking, Carolingian, Ottonian, Romanesque and Gothic. The rise and spread of Christianity throughout Europe saw the unification of various secular arts and a sophisticated visual culture built throughout the mediaeval period, producing prominent works in numerous disciplines – manuscripts, architecture, sculpture, mosaic, textiles, ivories and painting.
Modernism is an overarching term used to describe a succession of art movements that occurred between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. Although these movements vary greatly in style, they are united by a common set of principles: a repudiation of tradition and conservative values (such as religious moralising in painting), a bold experimentation with form, often to the point of abstraction, and an innovation in technique, materials and process. As a broad movement, modernism reflected the rapid acceleration of societal and technological change brought about by the Industrial revolution in the first half of the 19th century, as artists worked to present, idealise and propel the possibilities of modern life. The invention of photography in the same century was of particular significance to the movement, driving innovations in artistic representation that were beyond the realms of photographic possibility, whilst simultaneously offering a new medium for experimentation. The key styles encompassed by the modernist movement include: Realism (notable for its depiction of daily life on a scale traditionally reserved for history painting), Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Suprematism, Constructivism, De Stijl, Dada, Surrealism, Abstract expressionism and Minimalism.
Beginning in Italy in the early 1400s, the Renaissance spread north through Europe, flourishing throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. As a period, it is defined by the new Renaissance idea of ‘humanism’. This was inspired by the scholarly thinking and ideals of Ancient Greece and Rome, specifically the Roman concept of humanitas, an amalgamation of the Greek ideas of philanthrôpía (love of humanity) and paideia (education of the ideal citizen). Humanism promoted the worth of man as individual within society above all else. Coupled with a growing interest in nature, Renaissance art is characterised by an increasing adherence to realism, such as the introduction of perspective in painting. Although religious and mythological subject matter remained the dominant themes, depictions of holy or mythical figures were drawn from real life. The Renaissance period held classical learning in the highest esteem. Greco-Roman notions of symmetry, proportion and geometry are also reflected in the art and architecture of the period.