Europe has hundreds of years of stunning art history to explore, from the Renaissance to the present day.
If you’re looking for a summer break with a difference this year, you might consider following in the footsteps of some great artists from history. Whether you travel to the areas that inspired history’s most famous works, or venture to the museums and galleries that now house them, there is plenty to see in all corners of the continent.
Take a trip across the channel, a short-haul flight to Italy, or a road trip within the UK, and seek out the locations of some of history’s greatest masterpieces.
Keep reading for three of the best summer art breaks to enjoy this year.
1. Venice, Italy
Venice is one of the best cities in the world for art lovers. Works by Bellini, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Titian, and Veronese are dotted throughout the churches and museums of this incredible city.
Here are just a few of the many not-to-miss artworks it has to offer:
Bellini’s San Zaccaria Altarpiece (1505)
Hanging above the altar in the Church of San Zaccaria, Bellini’s masterpiece has commanded the attention of churchgoers and visitors for over 500 years. Part of the “sacra conversazione” genre, the painting depicts Madonna and child placed informally alongside various saints.
You’ll find the Church of San Zaccaria just off the waterfront, to the southeast of Piazza San Marco and St Mark’s Basilica.
Tintoretto’s Crucifixion (1565)
The San Rocco confraternity built the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, but it is Tintoretto that the building will forever be linked with.
Beginning his career under the brief tutelage of Titian, Tintoretto quickly set out on his own, competing fiercely for commissions against his former master and fellow Venetian master Veronese.
Tintoretto decorated the Scuola Grande di San Rocco with 60 works of art, showing scenes from the Old and New testaments, including the 5-metre by 10-metre Crucifixion.
Jackson Pollock’s The Moon Woman (1942)
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is located in the heiress’s beautiful Venice home, tucked away in one of the city’s many narrow cobbled streets.
You’ll find a series of Jackson Pollocks of various sizes, some large enough to fill the walls of their respective rooms. Most famous for the drip technique of his abstract expressionism pieces, Moon Woman is more reminiscent of Picasso.
2. Montmartre, Paris
If you’re a Picasso fan, the Montmartre district in Paris could provide you with the perfect summer art break. But he’s not the only artist to take inspiration from the region.
Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette (1876)
One of Impressionism’s most famous masterpieces, Bal du moulin de la Galette is one of many Renoir works to feature Montmartre.
Depicting a typical Sunday afternoon in the district, you can see the painting at the Musée d’Orsay.
Picasso’s Au Lapin Agile (1905)
The Lapin Agile bar, a meeting place for artists such as Picasso, Braque, and Modigliani, is featured in Picasso’s Au Lapin Agile.
Alongside Frédé Gérard, bar owner, guitar player and the commissioner of the work, the painting features a depiction of the artist himself and a striking lady in red.
Germaine Pichot met Picasso while the latter was travelling in Paris with his friend, Carles Casagemas. Picasso’s friend fell heavily in love with Germaine.
While the love went unrequited, many months after first meeting her, Casagemas visited L’Hippodrome Café in Paris with Germaine and some friends. During a speech, Casagemas accidentally shot his gun at Germaine. Mistakenly believing she had been killed, Casagemas shot himself.
Picasso was so distraught by the death of his friend that the incident sparked the “blue” period that would produce some of his most beloved works.
3. Flatford Mill, Suffolk
If you’re looking for a summer art break a little closer to home, you might consider the village of Flatford in Suffolk.
John Constable’s The Hay Wain (1821)
Flatford village is home to the now National Trust-owned Willy Lott’s cottage.
Constable captured the village and the cottage in his most famous painting but also wrote about the village.
In a letter to his patron, John Fisher, the Bishop of Salisbury, Constable wrote of “the sound of water escaping from mill-dams, etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork… those scenes made me a painter and I am grateful.”
Willy Lott, the cottage owner, was an illiterate farmer who died in 1849, aged 88. In all those years he is reputed to have spent just 4 nights away from the cottage. Lott became posthumously famous thanks to Constable’s painting.
The painting itself hangs in the National Gallery.