A year since I first visited the Prado (and found my inspiration for starting this blog), I was back in Madrid for a short visit. I had a free day to indulge my senses at any museum I wished, and so made plans to explore the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza by morning and return to the Prado for the afternoon. Problem: The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza was so wonderful I stayed all day! What a problem to have…
The Thyssen, as it’s called (“Tee’-son”), is one of three major museums in Madrid. The other two are the Prado, of course, and the Reina Sofia. When I was here a year ago I visited both the Prado and the Reina Sofia, but ran out of time and energy to stop by the Thyssen. I’m so thankful to get the opportunity to right that wrong!
There are three floors. The top floor has Italian primitives, Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, along with 17th and 18th century Italian and Dutch paintings. I stayed way too long on this floor! You’ll find Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII (c. 1537), Albrecht Durer’s Jesus among the doctors (1506), Caravaggio’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1598), Ruben’s Venus and Cupid (c. 1606), and Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat (c. 1642-43) among many other treasures.
Rembrandt left around 90 self-portraits by the time of his death, and I always enjoy seeing them in person. He’s like a good friend that I only get to see every so often. I like to come in close and look into his expressive eyes. Honestly, I think I’d recognize him in the streets today even if he were wearing modern clothing. His eyes have such depth and Rembrandt comes across quite honest in his physical self-assesment.
The middle floor has 17th and 18th century Romanticism-on paintings along with 19th and early 20th century Naturalism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and early Avant-garde. Represented here are Vincent van Gogh (pictured above to show the size), Paul Gauguin, Franz Marc, Edward Hopper, Juan Gris, Andre Derain and Picasso, among others.
On the ground floor are 20th century Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Fauvism, Dada and Surrealism, Neo-Dada and Pop Art, European Post-war Abstract and Figurative Art, and Photo-Realism. This was my favorite floor! Touring these rooms was like exploring a candy shop. Richard Estes, Telephone Booths (1967)
There are three works by Richard Estes, including this famous one of telephone booths. It is a very large piece, which makes the subjects inside the booths seem very real. I am a big fan. There are two intriguing rooms devoted to German Expressionism and Fauvism. I also love pop art and the Thyssen has several examples, including by Roy Lichtenstein.
If I were to visit the Thyssen again, I would start on the ground floor and work backwards since by the time I got to the 20th century exhibits I was pretty haggard. The cafe pictured above is pretty, yet extremely limited. The coffee is great, but unless you want pastries or bready sandwiches (That’s what I call a baguette with just one slice of meat and one slice of cheese inside), there’s nothing to eat. I was famished halfway through my visit and didn’t want to leave to forage for food in a city in which I’m unacquainted. One other disappointment was in the limited choice of narratives on the audio tour. I really couldn’t grasp why certain paintings had narratives while others, especially better known pieces, didn’t. I was desperate for more information! The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza was created by Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza who began collecting works of art in 1987. The collection also contains much art bequeath to her by her late husband, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.