Introductory Study Day on May 1st: For those who are able to come, there will be a study morning at the National Gallery giving us an opportunity to explore the Spanish collection and familiarise ourselves with some of the artists who we will encounter on our trip such as Velázquez, Goya, el Greco, Murillo and Picasso. Light refreshments are included before the tour.
Day 1: We depart from London Heathrow in the morning with British Airways and fly to Madrid. We then transfer by private coach to our 5-star boutique hotel which enjoys excellent facilities including an outdoor terrace and swimming pool, and is ideally located near the major art museums.
In the afternoon we visit the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and explore highlights of the collection such as Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII, Carpaccio’s Young Knight in a Landscape, Caravaggio’s Catherine of Alexandria, Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni and Picasso’s Man with a Clarinet. We trace the history of these acquisitions and the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, who still remained actively involved with the museum today. After the tour there will be some free time to enjoy the rest of the collection at leisure or see a temporary exhibition dedicated to plein air painting (including works by Turner, Constable, Manet and Van Gogh).
Dinner with wine is included this evening in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.
Day 2 : The Prado contains one of the most extraordinary collections of art in the world, with masterpieces including Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Goya’s Naked Maja, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross. The museum has recently been renovated with a spectacular extension project designed by the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, including the restoration of a Renaissance cloister which has been incorporated into the new buildings. We have timed entry reservations to avoid queues, and I shall give guided tours selecting major highlights from the collection as well as lesser-known works. Later today join me for a special private visit of a collection which includes masterpieces by Goya, Zurbarán, el Greco and Rubens.
Dinner this evening is arranged if you would like to join the group.
Day 3: This morning we enjoy a morning’s walking tour of Madrid. We stroll through the city enjoying her most elegant squares and monuments such as the 17th century Plaza Mayor, the Opera Theatre, the Cathedral and the colourful San Miguel Market ending with a visit to the Royal Palace, built in the 18th century on the site of the old Alcázar fortress. We then drive to the delightful nearby town of Chinchón, famous in particular for its beautiful central plaza with its picturesque balconies filled with flowers, from which locals and visitors can enjoy the famous bullfights which sometimes take place here. The town was also home to the brother of the painter Francisco Goya. Here we enjoy a leisurely afternoon following a delicious lunch in the well-known Parador restaurant (lunch with wine is included today).
Day 4: This morning we travel to the imposing palace and monastery of El Escorial, built for King Philip II by Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera between 1563 and 1584 and famous for its fine art collection which includes works by Titian, Bosch, van der Weyden, el Greco and other masters, as well as its sumptuous library, vast basilica, royal pantheon and elegant royal apartments. After lunch we return to Madrid where there will be some free time for independent exploration.
Dinner this evening is arranged in a delightful local restaurant serving traditional Spanish cuisine.
Day 5: This morning we visit the third in the Golden Triangle of art museums with a tour of the Reina Sofia Museum which is dedicated to Spanish 20th century art. Its most important work is without a doubt Picasso’s great mural Guernica, created in response to the bombing of the small eponymous Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. We spend time in particular learning about the dramatic history behind this seminal work, followed by a tour of further highlights including paintings by Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. After lunch we reconvene and depart by private coach for Madrid airport, arriving in London Heathrow in the late afternoon.