The eighteenth century was an uneventful chapter in the history of Spanish painting. Foreigners dominated, and the prettiness of Rococo vitiated the traditional strengths of naturalism and expressionistic intensity.
The arrival of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes into this enervated world had an explosive effect. Goya’s early years were spent in unpropitious circumstances having been born in a remote village on the Aragonese plain. He learnt his craft in the equally unpromising location of Zaragoza before escaping to Madrid. At first he made little headway in this more competitive environment, but after a couple of years in Italy his fortunes began to change.
Upon returning to Madrid, he was employed in making cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory. His astonishingly candid portraits were no barrier to his rapid rise to success, and in due course he became Principal Painter to the King and Director of the San Fernando Academy.
However, the experience of the Napoleonic occupation and the War of Independence, and an illness which led to deafness, stimulated some of the most nightmarish images in the history of art.
Zaragoza. Fly at c. 10.30 am from London Heathrow to Madrid (Iberia Airlines) and continue by coach to Zaragoza (c. 4 hours including a stop). An evening walk includes the basilica of El Pilar with ceiling paintings by the youthful Goya. First of two nights in Zaragoza.
Zaragoza. The Fine Arts Museum has an extensive collection of works by Goya while a savings bank displays his works in its Plateresque patio. Outside the city, the monastery of Aula Dei has Goya frescoes in its church.
Muel, Fuendetodos, Madrid. See Goya’s ceiling paintings at the hermitage in Muel. Continue to Fuendetodos, where Goya’s childhood home survives and the Museum of Etching contains his complete works. Take the high speed AVE train from Zaragoza to Madrid with lunch on board. On arrival visit the Prado to study Goya’s cartoons. First of three nights in Madrid.
Madrid. The Lázaro Galdiano museum has an early Goya and two of his famous witchcraft scenes. Continue to the Royal Tapestry Factory where Goya worked as a designer for 20 years. The Royal Palace at El Pardo on the outskirts of Madrid has a fine series of Goya tapestries.
Madrid. A second visit to the Prado includes Goya’s Black Paintings. The Academy of San Fernando holds paintings and etchings by the artist. In the afternoon visit the Royal Palace to see works created while Goya was painter to Charles III in the 1780s. Evening visit to the Palacio de Liria (opening to the public in summer 2020, subject to completion of refurbishment works), home to one of Spain’s most remarkable private art collections, including works by Goya.
Madrid. The ceiling of the church of San Antonio de la Florida is filled with impressionistic works by Goya and the artist is buried here. The Basilica of San Francisco el Grande has a large altarpiece by Goya, painted in the early stages of his career. En route to the airport, stop at the country retreat of the Osuna family, Goya’s main patrons, with a small palace and follies. Fly from Madrid to London Heathrow, arriving c. 6.00pm.
Dr Xavier Bray
Art historian specialising in Spanish art and sculpture and Director of the Wallace Collection, London. Formerly Chief Curator of Dulwich Picture Gallery and Assistant Curator of 17th and 18th-century European paintings at the National Gallery. His exhibitions include Murillo & Justino de Neve: The Art of Friendship and Goya: The Portraits. He completed his PhD at Trinity College, Dublin. Twitter: @XBray | Instagram: @xabibray
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,210 or £2,050 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,540 or £2,380 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with Iberia Airlines (Airbus 319); first-class rail travel between Zaragoza and Madrid; travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 4 dinners with wine, water, coffee; 1 light lunch on the train; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Hotel Catalonia el Pilar, Zaragoza: a modern 4-star hotel, comfortable and excellently situated. NH Palacio de Tepa, Madrid: a small and excellently located hotel, walking distance from the major museums including the Prado, rated locally as 5-star.
There is quite a lot of walking on this tour, and a lot of standing around in museums. A good level of fitness is necessary. One long coach journey and one journey by train. Average distance by coach per day: 62 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.fco.gov.uk.
'Dr Xavier Bray exceeded all expectations. His love and enthusiasm of Goya was electrifying and I particularly appreciated his examination and inquiry into each painting as to its authenticity, making one look with different eyes.'