6 Of Spain’s Best Art Museums – Part 2

Art may not be what springs to mind when the conversation turns to Spain. Football, tapas, perhaps bullfighting, but art? Spain has had a distinguished history in the field though, with notables such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Francisco Goya among its pantheon of art greats. Add to this the art treasures amassed at the peak of the Spanish Empire, when Aztec gold filled the national coffers in the 16th and 17th centuries and kings bought the finest of European art, and the promise is obvious.

And this is Part 2 of our 2 Parts write-up on the Best Art Museums in Spain. If you have not read Part 1, please click here.

Museo Nacional del Prado
Featuring one of the world’s finest collections of European Art, from the 12th to 19th centuries, The Prado is Spain’s main national art museum. Initially planned under Charles III in 1785, and interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, it finally opened its doors as a museum in 1819, under King Ferdinand VII.

Its permanent collection of approximately 9,000 paintings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and about 2,000 decorative objects is one of the world’s largest. Only about 15% of this extensive collection is on display at any one time. Even so, it is virtually impossible to go through the displayed collection in one visit. If you can only afford a one-hour visit, gomadrid.com has a list of recommended must-sees that you can just about cover in that time. But do yourself a favor, and plan for repeat visits!

TYM-Spain-Museo_Nacional_del_PradoThe Triumph of Bacchus, by Diego Velázquez, at The Prado

Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid
Spain’s national museum of 20th Century Art, the Reina Sofia was inaugurated in 1992, by the King and Queen of Spain, and named after the Queen. Housed in building that was originally an 18th century hospital. Famous for its display of Picasso’s “Guernica”, the museum, housed in a building that was originally a hospital, is also know for displaying the works of Dali, Man Ray, Francis Bacon, Delaunay and Dubuffet. Much of the museum’s collection came from the Prado, including Picasso’s Guernica. Aside from its paintings, the museum also houses a collection of 10,000 books and 1,000 periodicals on 20th Century Art.

TYM-Spain-Thyssen-Bornemisza_MuseumA Salvador Dali at the Reina Sofia

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
TYM-Spain-The-Thyssen-Bornemisza_MuseumThe exhibits here were originally the private art collection of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. In 1993, the Spanish government bought the collection and commissioned architect Rafael Monco to remodel the Villahermosa Palace to house it all. At the time, it was the second largest private art collection in the world, only surpassed by that of the Queen of England.  Some years later, the Baron’s wife, Carmen Cervera, loaned her personal art collection to the museum, which is housed in a purpose-built annex.

The Thyssen boasts a strong collection of medieval works, and a superb range of German Expressionists. The Cervera collection contributes one of the best collections of Catalan and Andalusian art in the country.

Additional Note: Madrid’s ‘Big 3’
The Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza & The Reina Sofia museums complement each other nicely, each filling in gaps in the collections of the other two. The fact that they are all in close proximity is a boon to the avid art fan, who should plan on spending at least a few days exploring their treasures.

Further Reading:



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Author: Catrine Carpenter

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