Housed in the remodeled eighteenth-century Palacio de Villahermosa, the Thyssen-Bornemisza is Madrid’s second most important museum, located just a few minutes’ walk from the Prado. It has both a permanent collection, once the world’s largest private collection of Old Master and Modern paintings, and the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, on loan to the museum since 2004. This three-hour Thyssen tour with skip-the-line tickets will traverse the collection, from fourteenth century European paintings to twentieth century American masterpieces. In the company of an expert art historian, our tour will weave the history and context of these works into the fascinating story of three generations of collecting by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family.
Our visit will start in the Permanent Collection, which unfolds chronologically on three floors of the museum. In the first rooms alone, we can pause before a small panel by Duccio that was originally painted for the high altarpiece of the Siena Cathedral (1310-1311), the wonderfully illusionistic Annunciation diptych by the great fifteenth-century Flemish master Jan van Eyck, and Ghirlandaio’s radiant posthumous portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni—a work that once graced the collection of J.P. Morgan. We will also have a look at other major works by European masters from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, including religious paintings, landscapes, mythologies and numerous German and Italian portraits acquired by Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (d. 1947) during the first half of the twentieth century.
(Interested in seeing more works by European masters? Our Prado tour
is a can't-miss for visitors to Madrid.)
After exploring the Dutch seventeenth-century painting exhibited on the museum’s first floor, we will come to another significant part of the collection: American paintings. Visitors are often surprised to discover that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum houses one of the best collection of American paintings in Europe. Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (d. 2002) was a pioneer in art collecting, with acquisitions including landscapes by Cole, Church, Kensett and other painters of the Hudson River School, as well as works by Homer, Sargent and many more. The late baron was an equally avid collector of German Expressionist paintings—another area of strength within the collection. Works such as Kirchner’s Street with Red Streetwalker (1914-1925) and Franz Marc’s The Dream (1912) are wonderful examples of the range of sensibilities in Expressionist painting that increased his own passion for art.
20th Century Modernism
Descending to the ground floor, devoted to twentieth-century art, we will see examples of Cubism from Picasso and Braque, as well as the photorealist works of American painter Richard Estes. Here again, we will take a close look at several works for their own artistic value and as carefully-chosen acquisitions by a private collector whose own tastes matched his desire to bring together a highly-representative, world-class art collection.
Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza
The baron had a close ally in the decade that preceded the sale of the Permanent Collection to Spain in 1992: his wife, the baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, who in the 1990’s became a full-fledged collector in her own right. Part of her extensive collection is on display on two floors of a recent expansion of the museum. The tour of this section of the museum begins in a large gallery where a number of Old Master paintings the baroness received at her husband’s death are exhibited just as they once were in Villa Favorita, Lugano, the original home of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. These include Vanvitelli’s vedute of the Piazza Navona, Rome (1699), one of the first of its kind, as well as works by Canaletto and Constable’s The Lock (1824). Other highlights of this collection include landscapes by the American Luminist painter Martin Johnson Heade, European and American Impressionist paintings, Post-Impressionist works (Gauguin’s masterful Mata Mua, among others), and early twentieth-century art. A visit to this collection also provides an opportunity to discuss the challenges of collecting great western art in the twenty-first century.
(For a deeper look at Impressionism in Madrid, we suggest our Sorolla Museum tour
, highlighting the life and work of famed Spanish painter.)
Is this tour wheelchair accessible?
The museum is entirely accessible to wheelchairs. Please contact us to discuss in more detail your mobility concerns so that we can best advise; we are also happy to design a private, customized tour for visitors with any concerns.