The third point in the 'Golden Triangle' of Madrid Art, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza fills in any gaps left from the Prado and Reina Sofia's collections.
If you knew that Madrid held the largest private art collection in Europe, how could you not go? Being the largest, it also spans centuries: Titian, Pop Art, and just about everything in between. This includes the kind of art not found in Spain’s public collections, such as the impressionists (think Manet or Renoir) and the avant-garde.
In a gallery as large as this one, it’s important to be selective about what you see. Just as in London’s National Gallery, no single person could take in everything, much less appreciate it. Why not pick a period, or even just an artist, and put all your attention to that?
This self-discipline will mean setting aside the fairly spectacular interior of the Villahermosa Palace, in which the gallery is housed. Recently restored, this palace points to the collection’s history in Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza (1875-1947), a German business magnate who created it with his son (also Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1921-2002). The collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza was added in 2004.
Surely the gallery’s biggest selling point, however, is Van Gogh. And Picasso. The biggest names in art history are to be found here, and that goes for the ‘second tier’ as much as the first: Rembrandt, Cézanne, Kandinsky, Rothko… But a visit here is also a chance to expand your appreciation of these artists, with the gallery holding slightly lesser-known works. If you liked Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, come and see if you like Les Vessenots in Auvers. If you were moved by Picasso’s Guernica, turn your eyes to Harlequin in a Mirror. You’ll recognise Roy Lichtenstein’s Woman in Bath as soon as you see it.
Depending on when you visit the Thyssen, it’s worth checking to see if there are any special events taking place. Particularly for young people, the gallery puts on an increasing number of educational activities. There are also regular temporary exhibitions of works you wouldn’t normally see.