Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: Madrid’s Must-See Museum

Cibeles, Culture

by Julie Espinosa

You may hear less mention of the Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza than of Madrid’s other two famous art museums, but that’s only because its name is tricky to pronounce. There’s no reason to overlook this corner of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art.” The well-rounded collection, compiled by the art-loving Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and acquired by the Spanish government in 1993, spans eight centuries, from Gothic to modern painting.

Fitting into a three-hour-or-so visit, you can start on the second (top) floor and work your way down chronologically. I like to play “spot the donor” with the older paintings. Continue for some fine Renaissance portraits, including the famous Ghirlandaio portrait of Giovanna Tornabouni.

The collection boasts many Flemish and Dutch masterpieces. Keep your eyes peeled for some Spanish painters: Ribera, Zurburán, El Greco and Goya (just a handful of them compared to the Prado). There are also many fine examples the 19th century American painting, especially landscapes.

I’m biased toward the lettered wings on the first and second floors over the numbered rooms, for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s how the spaces are connected, allowing one to glimpse this beauty from several rooms afar.

The impressionist, post-impressionist, and expressionist rooms are utterly transporting: among them are works by Pisarro, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Hassam, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. On the ground floor, you can catch works by Picasso, Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí and Lichtenstein.

Despite not filling a clear niche, this is a must-see museum. Main collection tickets are 6 €/4€ for students and senior citizens, and 9€/5€ to see the general collection and temporary exhibit.

Metro: Banco de España. Paseo del Prado, 8. See map below:

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Comment from Faye
Date: November 27, 2007, 2:30 am

The downside of the Thyssen is it doesn’t have a free-entry day like the other sides of the triangle; but it’s definitely the most attractive of the three museums.

The temporary exhibits can be scant and over-priced. Be aware that they usually have a (free) annex in the Fundación Caja Madrid building in Plaza de San Martín (Mº Sol).

Comment from Julie E.
Date: November 28, 2007, 6:58 pm

Good tip Faye. I’m usually not crazy about the museum’s temporary exhibits (I agree they can seem overpriced) but I’m always up for a free foundation-sponsored exhibit.

Comment from luke
Date: November 29, 2007, 11:45 am

Don’t be put off by the most kitsch foyer I’ve ever seen, comprising of a pinkish walls dominated by four giant portraits of Mr and Mrs Thyssen (the latter with a fluffy white cat in the style of 70s Mills and Boon). There are some fantastic medieval works and a limited number of the great masters Holbein, Caravaggio etc. The modern half of the collection is conservative and disappointing, showing up the personal taste of the Thyssens. There is a bias towards muddy realists such as Michael Andrews and Lucien Freud with the welcome relief of a smattering of Pop art. The wife’s side of the collection is full of chocolate box American landscapes but amongst this there are also great finds such as a Casper David Friedrich.