The Thyssen Bornemisza museum in Madrid is considered to be one of the finest collections of art in the world. While it is known for its superb temporary exhibitions the main draw to the museum is the permanent collection which it houses. This collection consists of 700 paintings that include masterpieces by artists such as El Greco, Velázquez, Dürer, Rembrandt, Watteau, Canaletto, Caravaggio, Hals, Memling, and Goya. It is said that the only private collection that can compare with it is the British Royal Family’s collection of art.
The Thyssen is located on Madrid’s Golden Art Triangle which also includes the Prado and the Reina Sofia galleries. The collection is housed in the 18th century Villahermosa Palace which stands on the opposite side of Paseo del Prado from the Prado Museum. Renovation of the building together with the installation of appropriate lighting and security cost in the region of $45 million.
History of the Thyssen Bornemisza Collection
The collection was started in 1920 as a private collection by the late Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. The baron assembled most of the art work from his relatives’ collection and then on his own acquired large numbers of new works. The Baron then married in 1985 and introduced his wife to the joy of art collecting. It was her influence that led to Spain gaining control over the collection and in 1992 the museum was opened. The Baroness is still extremely involved in the museum.
The Thyssen collection spans 8 centuries of European paintings. It is by no means an all inclusive collection but rather a collection of the highlights of the centuries. Coming into this museum you will be able to track the progress of art. In fact it is inherent in the structure of the museum that as you go through it you are taken on this journey. Rooms have been arranged in numeric order so that as you follow the numbers you get a logical sequence displaying the chronological development of European art.
The Thyssen Bornemisza Collection
The Thyssen collection, though one of the finest collections, is also considered one of the most unusual due to the eclecticism of the paintings. The 13th-17th century works include the Gothic Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, 17th century Dutch artists, German Expressionists and French Impressionists as well as works from Picasso, Sargent, Kirchner and Nolde and 20th century movements from Cubism, Neoplasticism and Dada to Surrealism and Pop Art. The museum also contains a unique collection of American 19th century paintings that are practically unknown in Europe and that collection is being shown in two rooms of the museum.
The way to see the exhibits is to begin upstairs on the 2nd floor with the 13th and 14th century religious art then continue downstairs to the avant-garde and pop art collections. This route takes you systematicallt through the works of Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh continuing on to Miró, Picasso and Gris, and terminating with Dalí. Pollock and Liechenstein.
The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemizca Collection
To further demonstrate the involvement of the Baroness, in 2004 a new exhibition opened as an extension of the musuem. This is known as the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemizca Collection. The art that is included in this collection consist of sculptures by Rodin, Fauvism, North American and German Impressionism, Post Impressionism and Early Avant Gardes of the 20th-century. The focus of this collection is Realism and Early Impressionism. A visitor will also be able to find some magnificent North American Landscapes.
Visiting the Thyssen Museum
To help both art novices and enthusiasts alike there’s an audio guide which can be rented at the ticket office which provides an introduction to each room as you enter. This audio guide enables visitors to get a great deal more out of the paintings and helps you to understand the development of Western art.
If you intend visiting all the galleries of the Madrid art triangle it’s well worth buying the Madrid Art Pass which gets you into all three at a discount. Just ask at the reception of the first one you visit. Although less well known than the Prado and Reina Sofia Museums, the Thyssen Bornemisza museum often proves to be the favourite of many visitors to Madrid’s art triangle. Alternatively buy the Madrid Card explain in the box above.
Sun. + Public Holidays: 9am-2pm
Metro Station: Banco de España
Website: Thyssen Museum