Andrew Graham-Dixon on the splendours of the Dutch Masters

TV broadcaster, journalist, and art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon is hosting two special departures to the Netherlands this June and October 2024. He'll enchant guests with his vast knowledge of the Dutch Golden Age during an exclusive talk and Q&A session. Ahead of the first departure, we chatted with Andrew to find out more about what he's most looking forward to on the trip.

Andrew Graham Dixon's career

Tell us about what first got you into the history of art and if there was a particular moment when you realised this was going to be your career?

I first had the sense that art would be a big part of my life when I went travelling in Italy at the age of seventeen. I was overwhelmed by Florence, then Rome. But Venice was the crowning moment. I couldn't believe a real place could be so otherworldly, magical, and overflowing with amazing things to see.

Tell us about your travels as an art historian - where has your work taken you?

I remember travelling to the hinterlands of Egypt to see some of the great churches of the Coptic Christians. I remember travelling through Russia to see the icons of Andrei Rublev in a snowcapped onion-domed church, filled with a weeping congregation on Good Friday. I remember journeying to Japan to see the Buddhist temples and gardens of Kyoto.

You've travelled around the world and seen some amazing things. Is there an absolute stand-out moment?

Some of my favourite moments have taken place at night while filming. I remember spending the best part of eight hours in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, lying on a camp bed brought in for the occasion, looking up at Michelangelo's masterpiece through binoculars as film lights were lighting the ceiling for the cameraman. I'll never forget that!

Has it all been glorious? Or have there been some challenging moments too?

Challenging moments and dangerous moments too! I remember nearly plunging into a Scandinavian fjord while skidding on black ice during a journey to see the stave churches of Norway. And I was nearly run over in Detroit while presenting a piece on the beauty of American cars. And I remember being very nearly being killed by a Rebecca Horn installation that smashed a mechanised hammer into a wall next to my face when I wasn't expecting it to move! Never mind Bear Grylls, presenting shows about art history is a risky business!

Andrew Graham-Dixon on talks about Art

Do you have a favourite art gallery and piece of art?

I love the National Gallery in London and the Frick in New York. I don't have a favourite work of art, but I do love Caravaggio and particularly his Adoration of the Shepherds in Messina in Sicily, which breaks my heart every time I see it.

You're hosting two special trips to the Netherlands this year. What makes this country so special to you?

I love Holland and the Dutch because they pioneered so many ways of seeing things we take for granted. I value the humanity of Dutch art, as well as its virtuosity - the sheer exuberance of the paint and the brilliance of the way it is manipulated, but more than anything else it is the feeling of love that radiates from so many of the great Dutch pictures. I don't mean that in a sentimental way, but it's what I mean to talk about.

Can you give us a teaser of what you will be talking about on the trip?

War, peace, and as I say: love...

Finally Andrew, what do you think are the real highlights of the trip?

The greatest highlights of all, in my opinion, are the pictures by Vermeer. But I'm biased because I've spent much of the last four years wrestling with a book about him.

Join Andrew on a six-day trip to the Netherlands where you'll tour Amsterdam and go behind the scenes on a private, out-of-hours viewing at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. You will see some of Rembrandt's most famous works at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and visit the Panorama Mesdag, Gouda and Rotterdam.