The Museums of Madrid

Three of Spain’s finest museums are within walking distance of each other on or near Paseo del Prado in a ritzy area of Madrid just west of El Retiro Park that is often called The Golden Triangle of Art. We visited two of these museums on our two-day visit to Madrid after our week in Barcelona last October.

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The Thyssen is one block up and across Paseo del Prado from the Prado. I took this shot from the boulevard’s median.

So what were we doing visiting museums in Madrid? Well, it’s a long story that begins with our decision to save a little money and fly standby to Barcelona. We had no problems getting to Spain as we made both of our flights from San Francisco to New York and New York to Barcelona. At the end of our week in Catalunya, however, we were informed that there would be no standby seats available for several days. It was suggested that we fly to Madrid and try our luck there. So we did. And we got on a plane to New York from Madrid after spending two nights in Madrid.

So why the museums? Well, when we checked the weather forecast for our week in Barcelona we discovered that it was supposed to rain every other day and so we planned our Plan “B”s to visit the city’s museums whenever it got too wet and stormy. Well, it never rained during that week and we never had to use any of our Plan “B”s. So we were in a museum mood and decided to stay in a hotel close to Paseo del Prado. So there we were — two blocks from the Thyssen and three blocks from the Prado.

The Thyssen

We actually visited the Thyssen twice during our stay. After lunch on our first day we walked around the neighborhood and crossed Paseo del Prado for a short visit — enough time to catch the special Edvard Munch collection called Archetypes. Then on our second day we returned to see the rest of the museum, including a special exhibit called Picasso and Cubism.

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Bust of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in the garden next to the main entrance to the museum.

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The Thyssen does not allow you to photograph any items in their special exhibitions. But I was told that I could take all the pictures I wanted of the posters of his paintings that lined the entrance to the Archetypes exhibit. This picture is half of an oil painting of his called Mother and Daughter.

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Munch made four versions of Scream. He also made 45 prints from his lithograph and one was displayed at the Thyssen. I downloaded the public domain image from wikimedia.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum opened in 1992 and the Spanish government acquired the Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in 1993.  A second collection of more than 600 works of art is owned by the Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza who is considered one of the world’s most important art collectors today. The Thyssen is noted for its primarily landscape and portrait paintings as opposed to other Spanish museums which feature mostly religious and historical paintings.

The Thyssen is presently showing a special exhibition on the Wyeths called Wyeth: Andrew and Jamie in the Studio. It closes on June 19, 2016.

The Prado

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Diego Velázquez sits in front of what once was the main entrance to The Prado, the doors of the main building facing Paseo del Prado.

The Museo Nacional del Prado is one of the world’s greatest museums and is the largest art museum in Spain. It’s also THE museum if you are an admirer of the works of Goya and/or Velázquez. This was my second visit to the Prado. In 2010 I missed Goya’s early paintings which are up a staircase on another floor from the main halls. So I made sure to see those this time. I also re-visited Velázquez and his contemporaries on the main floors. The museum also has many paintings by El Greco and Titian. The Prado has more than 100 paintings by Goya and 500 of his drawings. One room displays both of Goya’s Majas — one clothed and one naked. In another room you can find Goya’s great anti-war painting, The Third of May, 1808. There are hundreds and hundreds of paintings on display, mostly from the 15th through the 19th centuries. But if one were to choose the one most treasured museum possession it would have to be Velázquez’s Las Meninas. I don’t believe any other painting in the history of western art has received more comments on its composition.

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Entrance way to the North (Goya) Entrance of The Prado. The main entrance is now further back. That’s the Ritz Hotel in the background. The kiosk in the left center is advertising the special exhibition on Transparent Art.

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Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. The artist himself is on the left. The King and Queen of Spain are standing where you the viewer are looking at the scene. That’s their reflection in the mirror in the background. I downloaded this public domain image from the wikimedia website.

The new entrance to the Prado is now behind the main building on Paseo del Prado where a new building houses a cafeteria, a gift shop and space for special exhibits. I saw one exhibition called Transparent Art. It was all about exquisite carvings out of rock crystal by artists of Milan in the 1500s. Another exhibition was called The Divine Morales. It displayed a number of religious paintings by Luis de Morales, a master of the Spanish Renaissance.

The Sophia

I guess we will have to go back to Madrid someday because we still haven’t seen the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS). It’s also called the Museo Reina Sofía, Queen Sofía Museum, El Reina Sofía, and the Sofia. The Sofia is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art. It’s located a few blocks south of the Prado near the Atocha train station. Picasso’s Guernica moved from the Prado to the Sophia in 1992. (See here for the wikipedia copy of the image which is still protected by copyright.) Someday we’ll see it.

So did we save any money going standby? No. The flight to Madrid plus two more hotel nights took care of that. Will we do it again? Probably. Someday when we are not in any hurry to get home and when we do some better planning for what to do and how much will it cost if we get bumped.

We first visited Madrid in May 2010 (see here, here and here for some of my postings) and we enjoyed our two-day museums mini-visit five and a half years later.

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About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
This entry was posted in Art, art history, Spain, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Museums of Madrid

  1. Peter Klopp says:

    In 1960 my friend and I visited the Prado Museum. Thank you for your informative post refreshing my memory of that visit!

  2. chattykerry says:

    We visited the Prado and the Sofia back in the 90s and they were wonderful. Keep a look out for the statue of my ancestor Captain Jose Francisco Ortega, who founded the mission at San Francisco.

  3. That’s great that you are descended from a famous Californio! Ortega was a sergeant and chief scout for the Portola Expedition and is given credit for discovering San Francisco Bay in 1769. He later was commandant at San Diego and Santa Barbara and the Presidio of Monterey and was involved in the founding of Missions San Juan Capistrano and San Buenaventura. He retired as captain in 1795 and was granted a piece of land near Santa Barbara that he called Rancho Refugio. I don’t know of any statue, though.

  4. Sartenada says:

    Very enjoyable reading. Thank You.

  5. Amy says:

    So much to see in this museum. Thank you for the post! 🙂

  6. Pingback: A Walk in Central Madrid, Part Two | Crow Canyon Journal

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