Attraction: Known as part of the “Golden Triangle of Art,” the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (abbreviated as TBM for the rest of the post) offers visitors the chance to view artwork from periods that aren’t found at the Prado or the Reina Sofia (the two other museums comprising the “triangle”). Originally begun in the 1920s as a private collection by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, for a time it was the second largest private art collection in the world. It opened as a museum in 1992 after an agreement was reached between the Baron and the Spanish government, and a year later the collection was bought outright. It has over 1600 paintings in its collection and includes Impressionist, Expressionist as well as European and American paintings from the second half of the 20th century.
Pros to visiting: Compared to the larger and greater known Prado Museum, the TBM is more of a (slightly) “hidden” gem in Madrid. Drawing a considerably smaller number of visitors than its famous neighbor across the street, the TBM is like a miniature Musee d’Orsay with its extensive Impressionist collection. Seeing Paul Cezanne’s Portrait of a Peasant and Edgar Degas’ Swaying Dancer was an unexpected treat. Although a focal point of the museum is early European painting, with a major collection of trecento and quattrocento (14th and 15th century) Italian paintings by Duccio and works of early Flemish and Dutch painters, I was more impressed with its lesser known works. Much of the Prado’s collection is of prominent works done by prominent artists, but it does not, however, have world renowned paintings that you associate with it like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre or Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia. I enjoyed my visit to the MTB so much because I could simply admire and appreciate the works of art and not be bothered by people trying to take a picture of a painting. It wasn’t an art museum “paparazzi” scene with incessant cameras snapping away. If you need yet another reason to visit the MTB, it’s housed in a stunning Neo-Classical mansion from 1806. If you tire of the artworks, you can admire the magnificent architecture in one of the city’s prettiest areas.
Cons to visiting: I have none. I’ve been to some of the world’s largest museums and no experience has been quite as enjoyable as the afternoon I spent at the TBM.
Conclusion: A visit to the Prado is a must on a trip to Madrid; however, be sure to leave time to visit the TBM as well. Although you may think one art museum is enough, the TBM offers an entirely different experience. The Prado is all about the “Old Masters,” while at the TBM, it’s the “New Masters” (new relatively speaking). If you adore Monet and Degas but can’t quite swing a trip to the Musee Marmottan Monet or the d’Orsay in Paris, you will be pleasantly satisfied at the TBM.