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Art treasures

Artists are rarely drawn to drab scenery, so if an area has inspired an artist (or, in some cases, an entire school of art) then it’s a strong endorsement of that region’s beauty. Below are just a handful of holidays which have connections to some of Europe’s greatest artists.
  • Walk along the Mediterranean coast either side of the Franco-Spanish border and you’ll discover fishing villages with links to two very different schools of art. Collioure, the jewel of the Côte Vermeille, was favoured by Matisse and Derain, and the spots where they set up their easels are marked by reproductions of the Fauvist works they painted at each. On the Costa Brava, Salvador Dalí, drawn by the warm colours, considered Cadaqués to be the ‘most beautiful village in the world’. His house is open to the public, as is the flamboyant Theatre-Museum in nearby Figueres.
  • The scenes and characters depicted in the drawings and posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec are not ones you are ever likely to encounter in the sleepy villages lining the Tarn – he spent most of his short career in Montmartre, a bohemian world far removed from the serenity and natural beauty of the Tarn Valley. However, Albi, the red-brick city on the banks of this mighty river, is home to the single largest collection of his works (it boasts over 1,000 pictures, lithographs and drawings) because it was in the aptly named ‘ville rose’ that he was born and grew up.
  • Van Gogh, Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso… these are just some of the famous 19th and 20th-century artists who, owing to the special quality of the light, visited or set up residence in Provence (Cézanne was born in the region and returned after some time in Paris). Even if you have visited Provence before, it is always worth returning in different seasons, and if you haven’t, then you should consider a holiday here so as to see for yourself why these artists drew such inspiration from the sleepy, shuttered villages, rounded mountains and carpets of herbs and lavender.
  • From Bologna to Florence is a fantastic holiday in its own right – walking along ancient drovers’ trails over rugged peaks reveals subtly changing landscapes. But if you are interested in art, a whole new dimension to the holiday opens up – red-brick Bologna is home to one of Italy’s most important national picture galleries, with works by Giotto and Raphael, while Florence boasts the world-famous Uffizi Gallery. Through the Chianti Hills is another great journey on foot, with Lorenzetti’s Effects of Good and Bad Government among the masterpieces to look forward to in Renaissance Siena.
  • Lucerne features among our suggestions not because it inspired artists – though arguably its eponymous lake and the surrounding mountains would make superb subjects – but because it is home to the Rosengart Collection. It may not rival the Uffizi or the Louvre, but it brings together in excess of 300 works by over twenty Classic Modernist artists, most notably Picasso, a friend of the Rosengart family, and Klee, but also Miró, Braque, Pissarro and others. If a visit to the gallery doesn’t sate your appetite for art, you can also admire the works of Swiss artist Hans Erni in another of the town’s museums.

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