Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

Category: Madrid

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Spanish for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, is an art museum/gallery in Madrid, Spain, located on the famed Paseo del Arte.  This showcase of beautiful art is situated very near the Museo de Prado and the Museo Reina Sofia, which together with the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza make up Spain’s “Golden Triangle of Art.”  One of the reasons these three museums are linked is the fact that the collection of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza fills the important historical gap between that of the Prado and Reina Sofia; the former housing mostly Italian primitives and works from the Spanish, English, Dutch and German schools, and the latter consisting of pieces from the Impressionist and Expressionist schools, and European and American paintings from the latter half of the 20th century.

History of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

The collection now featured at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza began in the mid 1920s as a private collection initiated by Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kaszon.  The manner in which this collection was amassed is actually quite ironic:  at a time when European art was being bought up by American collectors, the Baron took advantage of the financial woes associated with the Great Depression, and began buying art from American millionaires trying to cope with inheritance taxes.  Among the pieces collected during this time were Ghirlandaio’s portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, which was formerly housed at the U.S. Morgan Library, and Carpaccio’s Knight, from the collector Otto Kahn.  The collection continued to grow and expand under the hand of Heinrich’s son, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who not only assembled his father’s collection but acquired a large number of new works on his way to compiling one of the finest private collections of art in the world.

When the younger Baron married former Miss Spain, Carmen Cervera, in 1985, he introduced her to art-collecting.  This introduction would later prove instrumental in deciding the fate of the collection’s future when the Baron was ready to sell.  In 1992, after an agreement was reached between the Baron and the Spanish government, the collection was ceded to Spain, and one year later it was bought outright by the government.

The Collection at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

The collection on display at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza spans eight centuries, with the earliest works—the Old Masters—having been bought up by the senior Baron, and the works of the 19th and 20th centuries being the main focus of his son.

Although not an all-encompassing view of the European art of the time, it does provide a series of glorious highlights.

The major collection of trecento and quattrocento paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries are some of the main focal points of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, featuring Italian paintings by Duccio and his contemporaries, and works of the early Flemish and Dutch painters like Jan Van Eyck, Albrecht Durer and Hans Holbein.  Some of the other highlights of the collection include pieces by some of the most famous Renaissance and Baroque painters of the time, with names like Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Murillo, Carpaccio, Titian and Sebastiano del Piombo.  Impressionist and Post-Impressionists are also represented at the museum, including Renoir, Degas, Monet and Vincent van Gogh, as are Cubist paintings and later works by Picasso, Mondrian and Hopper.