Spanish Art And Architecture

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Course Information
Art History
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

This course is of an introductory nature, so it will not request any specific background in art and architecture. Main trends and individual styles will be made clear by comparison with other examples by the same or other artists.


This course provides an introduction to the history of Spanish architecture and painting, from the Middle Ages up to modern times. It will  deal with the main creations of Spanish art taking into account the historical circumstances in which they were produced. As well as discovering the cultural and historical background of each period, students will learn how to look at a building or a painting from its own point of view, analyzing its style, its own visual and spatial language. Emphasis will be placed on the great examples of Spanish painting and architecture: from masterpieces like the Mezquita of Córdoba and the Alhambra in Granada to architects such as Gaudí, Moneo and Miralles, and from El Greco, Velázquez and Goya to Picasso and Dalí.

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES Abroad classes, including course-related excursions. Any exams, tests, presentations, or other work missed due to student absences can only be rescheduled in cases of documented medical or family emergencies. If a student misses more than two classes in any course half a letter grade will be deducted from the final grade for every additional absence. Seven absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Method of presentation: 

Classroom teaching combines lectures with visits to the most important sites and museums in Madrid, such as the Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, El Retiro etc., and the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Museo Reina Sofía. Lectures will be illustrated with powerpoint images. Thanks to the visits to the city and to the museums, students will have an extraordinary opportunity to appreciate by themselves the works under study.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • First Midterm Exam (30%): The first midterm exam will consist on 4 powerpoint images of a building or a painting already seen in class. The student will have to answer briefly questions about its function, meaning and style, and the historical conditions in which it was produced.
  • Paper (30%): At the end of the term students will deliver a paper analyzing an architectural or pictorical example of their choice.
  • Final Exam (40%): The final exam will be very much like the first one: 4 powerpoint images of a building or a painting already seen in class. Students will have 10 minutes for each image and should analyze style (composition, volume, color, light, and the treatment of space) and iconography (function, meaning and the context in which it was created).



Week 1

Presentation and orientation.

Introduction: how to analyze a work of art: style and iconography (meaning and context).

Week 2

Concept of architecture: materials and techniques.

Spain in the Early Middle Ages: Christian kingdoms.

Prerromanesque Architecture: visigothic and asturian periods.

Islam (Mezquita de Córdoba) and religious cohabitation (Toledo: Mosque of Cristo de la luz and Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca).

Week 3

Romanesque Arquitecture (the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela).

An urban culture: the Gothic cathedrals of León and Burgos.

Week 4

The Miracle of La Alhambra.

Renaissance: The Palace of Charles V in La Alhambra.

Week 5

Review: first midterm exam

First Midterm Exam

Week 6

Flemish and Italian Renaissance: van der Weyden, Fra Angelico, Raphael. 

El Greco and the influence of Titian and Tintoretto.

Visit to the Prado Museum.

Week 7

Caravaggio and Rubens and their influence on Velázquez.

Velázquez: as a court painter.

Visit to the Prado Museum.

Week 8

Velázquez masterpieces: The Spinners (Las Hilanderas) and Las Meninas.

The Madrid of the Austrias.

Visit to the Prado Museum.

Visit of the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza de la Villa.

Week 9

The Bourbon dinasty palace: El Palacio Real de Madrid.

Goya: The Age of Enlightenment.

Tapestry cartoons and court portraits.

Visit to the Prado Museum.

Visit of the Palacio Real.

Week 10

Madrid in the Age of Enlightenment.

Visit: Paseo del Prado, Jardín botánico and Museo del Prado.

Goya: War paintings and Black Paintings (Las pinturas negras) Visit to the Prado Museum.

Week 11

First steps to modern art.

Visit to the Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Visit to the Sorolla Museum.

Week 12

Gaudí and Barcelona.

Visit to the Retiro (Palacio de Cristal y Palacio de Velázquez) and Antonio Palacios (Palacio de Comunicaciones).

Week 13

Picasso: El Guernica.

Dalí y Miró.

Visit to the Museum Reina Sofía.

Week 14 Final Exam: The day and time will be announced on-site.
Required readings: 
  • Baccheschi, E., El Greco, Every Painting, Ed. David Piper, New York, 1980. Brown, J., Painting in Spain: 1500-1700, Yale University Press, 1998. Brown, J., The Golden Age of Painting in Spain, Yale University Press, 1991.
  • Brown and Mann, Spanish Painting of the 15th through 19th centuries, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990
  • Brown, J., Images and Ideas in Seventeenth Century Spanish Painting, Princeton University Press, 1978. Brown, J. et al., El Greco of Toledo, Exhibition Catalogue, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1982.
  • Brown, J., Velázquez: Painter and Courtier, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1986.
  • du Gué Trapier, E., Goya and his sitters, Hispanic Society of America, New York, 1964. Elliot, J.H., Imperial Spain 1469 – 1716, Penguin Books, London , 1963.
  • Elliott, J.H., A Palace for a King. The Buen Retiro and the Court of Philip IVth, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1980.
  • Freedberg, S.J., Painting in Italy 1500-1600, London, 1975.
  • Gassier, P., and J. Wilson, The Life and Complete Work of Francisco Goya, New York, 1981. Glendinning, N., Goya and His Critics, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1977.
  • Gombrich, E.M., The Story of Art, Oxford, Phaidon Press, 1985.
  • Harris, T., Goya.Lithographs and Engravings, San Francisco, Alan Wolsy Fines Arts, 1983. Janson, H.W., and E.A. Janson, A Basic History of Art, Prentice Hall, 1987.
  • Jordan, W., Spanish Still life in the Golden Age: 1600-1650, Kimbell Art Museum, 1985
  • Lassaigne,J., Spanish Painting From Velázquez to Picasso, Skira, 1952.
  • MacGregor, N., Painting in Spain during the Later Eighteenth century, Washington, National Gallery, 1989.
  • MacLaren, N., The Spanish School, National Gallery Catalogue, 1952, reprinted 1998.
  • Pérez Sánchez, A.E., and E.A. Sayre, Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, Boston, Catalogue of the exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts, 1989.
  • Stoichita, V., Visionary experience in the Golden Age of Spanish Art, Reaktion Brooks, London, 1995.
  • Stratton-Pruitt, Velázquez.Las Meninas, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Sullivan and Mallory, Painting in Spain 1650-1700 from North American Collectors, Princeton Museum of
  • Art, University Press, 1982. Tomlinson, J., Goya, Phaidon, London, 1994.
  • Tomlinson, J., Graphic Evolutions. The Print Series of Francisco de Goya, Columbia University Press, New York, 1989.
  • Tomlinson, J., Goya and the Twilight of Enlightenment, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1992. VVAA., Goya. The Disasters of War and selected Prints, The Spanish Institute, New York, 1985. VVAA., Velázquez in Seville, National Gallery of Scotland, 1996.
  • Wethey, H.E., El Greco and his School, Princeton University Press, 1962.