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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. Explore the Rich Tapestry of Art & History in Palma with Isabelle Kent, indulge in German Romanticism with Dr Ulrike Ziegler or venture further afield to Armenia with Dr William Taylor. The possibilities are endless with Arts Pursuits.
We have found 10 Holidays available from £1,750pp
This art history tour of the Upper Rhine Valley explores Freiburg Minster’s stained-glass and the work of Han Holbein the Younger, Strasbourg Cathedral’s gothic architecture, the Isenheim altarpiece in Colmar and 16th-century art in Basel.
Travel to Champagne, France, to see glorious Gothic architecture and stained glass, combined with a taste of fine Moët & Chandon champagne on this Art Pursuits tour.
Discover one of Germany’s oldest cities, wine-growing villages, romantic timbered houses, and excellent Moselle Rießlings on this Art Pursuits tour of Trier and the Moselle.
Enjoy the natural and artistic highlights of this reassuringly old-fashioned part of the world on this 7-day tour with Tom Abbott.
Stroll labyrinthine alleyways laced with the aroma of spice and perfume, take in architectural wonders of heart-stopping beauty and surrender to the timeless romance of this captivating city, where Africa, Europe and the Middle East converge.
In the company of Isabelle Kent, our expert host, follow in the footsteps of artists, architects, and designers on this tour of Palma, an elegant city with a sophisticated cultural scene and rich history.
Nestled on the banks of the Neckar River is the picturesque town of Heidelberg, home to the enchanting Heidelberg Castle. Enjoy a private tour around its grounds, visit the Kurpfalz Museum and explore towns down river by coach.
Discover the cultural heritage of Andalucia and view exquisite examples of Islamic, Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture on this remarkable Art Pursuits tour.
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.
Tom Abbott leads this new Art Pursuits tour to Basel, a city once home to Erasmus of Rotterdam and Hans Holbein the Younger, which merges history and tradition with cutting-edge design.
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.
Having lived and worked in the Mediterranean area (Italy, Turkey & Greece), for forty years, Art Historian, Nigel McGilchrist has taught for several universities in the USA and in Italy and now lectures freelance. He has worked for the Italian Ministry of Arts on wall painting conservation and is the author of the 20-volume series, McGilchrist’s Greek Islands.
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.