Four of the best art trail escapes
- Credit: Le Meurice
Discover Picasso's Parisian haunts
One of the greatest artists of the 20th century may have been Spanish (born in Malaga), but the French remain fiercely possessive of the ludicrously talented painter. We are, of course, talking about Pablo Picasso whose visionary genius is as entwined with Paris as the Moulin Rouge or the Eiffel Tower. Here, amongst the dusty attics and corners of the ramshackle Bateau Lavoir in Montmarte – the rundown ‘boat washhouse’ that drew penniless painters in the early 20th century – Picasso conjured some of the most radical experiments in modern art. He was 19, restless and ambitious, and Montemarte was riotous and alluring, filled with all the hedonism of the Belle Epoque. In between his masterpiece making, the painter would beeline to the whimsical cabaret club Au Lapin Agile and Café de la Rotonde, where struggling artists could draw for their drinks amongst the smoky chatter of gathering intellectuals, returning back to his studio at the Bateau Lavoir that creaked and rocked in the wind like the laundry boats lining the Seine. And now, guests at the city’s Dorchester, Le Meurice, are being given a one-of-a-kind opportunity to stake out Picasso’s favourite haunts with an in-the-know guide.
During the revealing journey through Montemarte, guests will learn why Picasso’s masterpiece ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ remained rolled up and neglected in his studio for years; how he paid for his drinks at the Lapin Agile; and why he was implicated in a theft at the Louvre. As for Le Meurice itself, the scene of Picasso’s wedding banquet in 1918, this grande dame is undeniably a destination in itself. Grand and gilded, the chandeliers dazzle, the Champagne flows and decadence runs through its veins – this is a ‘palace’ hotel, whose interiors were polished by Philippe Starck and whose kitchen is run by Alain Ducasse.
Rooms start from €1,330 a night and include an American Breakfast and the two-hour expert guided tour. dorchestercollection.com
Banksy Walking Tour: Street art might not be your thing, but in recent years this urban redressing has become an attraction in itself and can make big names out of artists. Take Banksy, once just another kid on the street, who would fearlessly create his iconic masterpieces around corners in Bristol with a can of spray paint and a side of grit. Yet today, his pieces sell for thousands of pounds. Head to Bristol for a self-guided tour to a handful of his iconic scrawlings, from the Valentine’s Day Mural on Barton Hill, to the Grim Reaper in the city’s M Shed, and the Cat and Dog in Easton amongst a technicolour mirage of works from other street artists. visitbristol.co.uk
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail: Autumn in the Forest of Dean is all leaf peeping, crackling fires and cosy pubs; when the trees are ablaze in colour and warming nips after bracing walks are par the course. Hidden amongst the trees of the forest is this permanent sculpture trail that’s drawn local and international artists since its inception in 1986. There are currently 16 sculptures to discover on the trail, one of which is titled Soil Unsoiled, whose co-creator, Zakiya Mckenzie, said: “I hope it adds nuance, beauty and wonder to people visiting the trail. I also hope it brings more people out who then discover a lifelong love with forests - that is the dream.” forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk
Van Gogh Walking Tour, Arles: The Dutch artist arrived in the southern French town in February 1888, and so enamoured was he by the golden light of the Camargue – blossoming orchards, dappled fields of wheat, wild waterways – he produced around 200 paintings from his year in ‘the Yellow House’. His infamous abode was the setting for one of the art world’s maddest moments, where he took a razor and cut of his left ear; and although the Yellow House fell to the ground in WWII, some of his most admired works will forever be entwined with Arles. During this self-guided tour, hotspots include the Trinquetaille bridge where he painted the Staircase of the Trinquetaille Bridge, the Rhone River embankment for his Starry Night over the Rhone, and the Place Lamartine where his Yellow House was located. arlestourisme.com