Madrid is a point of reference for enthusiasts of painting and a place that all those interested in the history of this art must visit. The museums of the city allow a look at all the significant moments in the evolution of Western painting, from the Middle Ages until today. From Velázquez, Picasso or Goya to Bosch, Titian, Dürer or Rubens; from the superb collection of Spanish painting to the Venetian painting of the 16th century, the Flemish from the 15th to the 17th century or the great Italian, French and German masters from the 16th to the 18th century.
The renowned “Art Walk”, comprising the Prado, Reina Sofía with the famous Guernica by Picasso, Thyssen-Bornemisza and CaixaForum create one of the most exquisite artistic landscapes of the city. But besides the mentioned museums and collections, the exhibition space is supplemented by numerous galleries, both public and private, in which to enjoy masterpieces. In fact, many of Madrid’s major historical buildings have been used as venues for all manner of exhibition and cultural events.
Annual Visitors: 3,200,000
The Prado Museum is one of the most prestigious art museums in the world. Alongside Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Goya’s The Nude Maja, The Garden of Earthly Delights by the Early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch and The Three Graces by Rubens, the galleries are packed with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools. Storing over 8,000 artworks, the Prado Museum offers an expansive survey of Western painting, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and it houses the most comprehensive collection of Spanish painting in the world.
The Golden Century is vastly represented through works by Ribera, Zurbarán and Murillo, which explain the context that triggered Velázquez’s paintings. The different paths travelled by Italian Baroque art are clearly visible in artworks by Caravaggio, Guido Reni and Annibale Carracci. French, Dutch and German painting is also present in the museum’s collection. Dürer, Claude Lorrain, Rembrandt or Watteau are some of the other unmissable artists.
Annual Visitors: 2,565,000
The museum aims to promote contemporary art with its collection, public library and a vast programme of shows, conferences, performances, projections and concerts. As a continuation of the Prado Museum, that Museum picks up where the former leaves off, displaying artworks from the late 19th century to today. Artworks by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris hang alongside Picasso’s Guernica in a riveting survey of Spanish Art History. In fact, Dalí, Miró and Picasso, the most influential Spanish artists of the 20th century, form the backbone of the permanent collection. World War II put an end to the first avant-gardes of the artistic scene, as the second section of the museum explains and this period can be better understood in the context of the European panorama, which is why the museum also displays works by such artists as Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, Lucio Fontana, Henry Moore and Yves Klein. Jean Nouvel’s extension was inaugurated in the middle of 2005.
Annual Visitors: 1,255,281
With a collection of over 1,000 works of art, the Thyssen-Bornemisza allows visitors to embark on an exceptional journey through seven centuries of painting or to contemplate any one of the 50 paintings it holds that are considered to be universal masterpieces. Carpaccio, Dürer, Caravaggio, Rubens, Frans Hals, Gauguin, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Klee, Hopper or Kirchner are a few of the old masters whose work is on display under a single roof at Palacio de Villahermosa, headquarters of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation.
Its collection is strong in areas including the early Italian school, the German Renaissance, 17th-century Dutch painting, 19th-century American painting, Impressionism, German Expressionism, Russian Constructivism, Geometric Abstraction and Pop Art. The Thyssen collection offers visitors a tour of the history of European painting, from its origins in the 13th century to the final years of the 20th.
CaixaForum Madrid & CosmoCaixa
Annual Visitors: 1,203,630
CaixaForum Madrid is a 21st-century sociocultural and live space opening its doors to old, modern and contemporary art, to music and poetry festivals, to multimedia art, to debates on current affairs, to social symposiums and family and educational workshops. Located in an impressive building which was once an Electric Power Station, rehabilitated by the architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron and nowadays it is one of the landmarks in the city. The brick façade of the former construction has been restored by hand and the building has two recognisable features: its vertical garden and its “levitation” (it comes with the removal of the granite base surrounding the old factory, giving the impression of a floating building).