The Arts of Spain

109 TUTOR: Wayne Bennett (MA)


In a glaring omission, Kenneth Clark famously excluded Spanish art from his great survey of 'Civilisation'. In contrast, this epic survey of the arts will start with Celtic-Iberian sculpture, the stunning Roman legacy and the mysterious world of the Visigoth kingdom. The contribution of Islamic culture will be assessed before evaluating the Romanesque, the Gothic and everything that followed. You will examine great masterpieces by El Greco, Velasquez, Murillo and Goya and conclude with Gaudí and his contemporaries, plus Picasso, Dalí and Miró, as well as more recent notables in Spanish visual culture. The distinct music of Spain will flavour your cultural adventure.


Course Notes


Celtic-Iberian and Roman Art

As an opening gambit we will briefly look at Spain's geographic context especially in respect of its isolation and cultural connectedness. Then we will look at the mysterious world of pre-Roman culture. Strange sculptural forms representing bulls and pigs together with images of archetypal goddesses.As in the rest of Europe, the arrival of the Romans changes everything and we will look at the extraordinary impact they made especially in the built infrastructure - great temples, theatres, walls, aqueducts and even a lighthouse. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the Visigoths arrived in Iberia and their material culture is quite unmistakable.


Islamic Art & The Romanesque

After only a couple of centuries the people of north Africa migrated and displaced the Visigoth kingdom. Islamic culture arrived and with it a new aesthetic representing ideas from the middle east. We will consider the caliphate of Cordoba and how it impacted on Iberian culture in so many ways. Alongside Moorish Spain we encounter a flowering of Romanesque art in the north as the Christian Reconquest gathered apace.


The Rise of Gothic and the Impact of Neoclassicism and the Baroque

Emulating architectural developments in France the Gothic style was adopted on the peninsular thus cementing a distinct Christian imprint. We will explore the rich Gothic heritage found in cathedrals such as that of Burgos, Leon, Toledo, Valencia and Seville. The Neoclassicism style of the Italian Renaissance was to follow in great palaces and the Cathedral of Granada. This morphs into the baroque extravaganza found in many churches across Spain.


The Golden Age of Spanish Art

In this session we will celebrate the great artists of the so-called 'Golden Age' - Fuelled by riches plundered from the New World we will look in detail at some great masterpieces by El Greco, Velasquez, Murillo and others. The startling work of Goya will conclude our indulgence and we will briefly assess how Spanish art influenced others.


Modernism and Contemporary Spain

Perhaps one of the contradictions of Spain is its fraught relationship to the modern world. At times, arch-conservative and then at other times (and places) embracing change and radicalism. In this final session we will look at the Modernism found in Catalunya, as well as the reactionary architecture of the Franco era. Painters and sculptors will make a big appearance and we will ask ourselves the question as to whether Picasso was essentially a Spanish or French artist. Contemporary attitudes towards art and architecture will conclude our course.

Course Tutor

Wayne Bennett


About Wayne



After an initial training and career in the theatre (including working in London's West End and for over four years at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden) Wayne studied fine art and art history at Camberwell School of Art and Goldsmiths'College, University of London, where he obtained a first class honours degree. He studied archaeology at Exeter University and has a Master's degree in Art History from the Open University.For two years he worked for the Contemporary Art Society based at the Tate Gallery and for 23 years was General Manager and Director of Dillington House - Somerset's College of Adult Education until his retirement in 2015. He now divides his time between his research interests - archaeology, cartography, cultural history, music and art.He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.



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Summer School Dates for 2024

All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 8 Jul - 12 Jul

WK 2 15 Jul - 19 Jul

WK 3 22 Jul - 26 Jul

WK 4 29 Jul - 2 Aug

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9.15AM to 12.15PM

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1.45PM to 4.30PM

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9.15AM to 4.30PM