Detail of the painting Las Meninas by Velázquez. Prado Museum
The Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Museum (MNCARS) together make up the “Paseo del Arte” or “Art Walk”. These three collections that make Madrid the world capital of art, three collections without which it would be impossible to understand the history and evolution of painting.
Already during the reign of Carlos III it was suggested that Madrid be endowed with a collection of paintings on a par with that of the Louvre in Paris. But not until Fernando VII took the throne would such a project take shape. Thanks in large part to the wishes of María Isabel de Braganza, the king’s second wife and considered the museum’s founder, the Prado opened its doors on 19 November 1819 under the name “Museo Real de Pintura y Escultura” (Royal Museum of Painting and Sculpture).
Currently, the facilities of all three art museums are undergoing an important process of expansion that will allow them to continue to increase their already extraordinary collections. They also periodically organize exhibits of great interest, that give an even brighter shine to the permanent collections.
Expansion and improvement to these three museums will be accompanied by the refurbishment of the Paseo del Prado where they are located: expansion of the pedestrian areas and restoration of the surroundings in line with the original design are planned.
The Prado Museum
This is the most important point of the “triangle” of art museums, and houses perhaps the most valuable collection of paintings on the planet. Its protagonists include Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Zurbarán, Ribera, Murillo, Bosch, Titian and Rembrandt, together with the major representatives of painting in Europe. The Prado currently holds close to 9000 paintings, mainly from the Spanish, Italian, Flemish, French and German schools, distributed throughout the museum’s different buildings: the Palacio de Villanueva and the Casón del Buen Retiro.
It would be difficult to list the most outstanding works here given the richness of the collection. However, suffice it to mention Goya’s “Majas”, Velázquez’s “Las Meninas or the Family of Felipe IV”, El Greco’s “The Knight with His Hand on His Breast”, Murillo’s “The Holy Family of the Little Bird”, Rubens’ “The Three Graces”, Bosch’s “Garden of Delights” and Titian’s “Carlos V on Horseback in Mühlberg”. Without forgetting the great paintings of masters such as Rafael, Durer or Fra Angelico.
The museum also contains more than 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, nearly 1,000 coins and medals and almost 2,000 pieces of sumptuary or decorative art. There are more than 700 sculptures and sculpture fragments as well. A series of prints, drawings and sketches by Goya and the “Tesoro del delfín” stand out in these categories.
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
From Monet to Van Gogh, Picasso to Mondrian or Klee, from Bacon to Lichtenstein, Duccio to Kalf, from Saenredam to Goya…the list of artists represented here is long and diverse. From the time the Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza took over the collection he began to make outstanding contributions to it until it reached its present value. In general, said collection ranges from classical works to the most important artistic trends of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here, Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, German Expressionism, the Vanguards and Post-War European and Americana paintings are sure to capture your attention. Located in the Villahermosa Palace, this collection also has great pedagogical value due to the way in which the pieces are displayed and the wide array of styles and eras covered.
If the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemiza museums represent a journey through the history of painting, the Reina Sofia museum, sited in the old San Carlos General Hospital, is synonymous with innovation and vanguard. The Velázquez and Crystal Palaces complete the museums facilities.
Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Solana, Saura, Tàpies, Gargallo, Gris and Chillida are the artists who will hold the gazes of its visitors. Within this world of painting, sculpture and artistic creations of different styles, Picasso’s “El Guernica” truly shines—a statement against war with multiple interpretations and an icon of our time.