The Arts and Architecture of Spain

655 TUTOR: Wayne Bennett (MA)

In what appears today as an outrageous position, Kenneth Clark famously excluded Spanish art from his great survey of 'Civilisation'. El Greco, Velasquez, Murillo and Goya did not feature. To make amends, this course embarks on an epic survey of Spanish painting, sculpture, architecture and music. No stone will be left unturned. You will start with Celtic-Iberian sculpture before examining the Roman legacy and the mysterious world of the Visigoths. Then the contribution of Islamic culture before settling down to consider the Romanesque, the Gothic, Neoclassicism and Baroque. You will conclude with Gaudí and his contemporaries as well as Picasso, Dalí and Miró and more recent notables in Spanish visual culture. The distinct music of Spain will flavour your cultural adventure.

4 PM
PM course

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.


The Visigoths and Islamic Art

The collapse of the Roman Empire brought with it another great shift in cultural activity. The Visigoths arrived in Iberia and their material culture is quite unmistakable. After only a couple of centuries the people of north Africa migrated and displaced the Visigothic 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.


The Romanesque and Gothic

Whilst Islamic culture held its grip in southern Spain, the Christian reconquest over many centuries headed southwards from the northern mountains. Romanesque churches asserted their presence and many of these contained wonderful wall paintings. Eventually the Gothic style was adopted on the peninsular thus cementing the Christian hold in a wider European context. In this session we will explore the rich Gothic heritage found in cathedrals such as that of Burgos, Leon, Valencia and Seville.


Neo-Classicism and The Golden Age of Spanish Art

Here we will see how the neo-classical phenomenon the Italian renaissance embeds itself in the Spanish context. Of course, it morphs into the baroque extravaganza found in many churches but also in the palaces of the Habsburgs and Bourbons.Then redressing Kenneth Clark's famous omission we will celebrate the great artists of the so-called 'Golden Age' - 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 Residential 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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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul

WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul

WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul

WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM