Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Vice-Chairman of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza is one of the most important art collectors in the world today and a well known and admired figure both in Spain and abroad. Carmen Cervera, Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza, was born in Barcelona into a family that encouraged her love of art. Her father, an industrial engineer and businessman, was an amateur painter and collected works by Catalan artists. Carmen Cervera received an international education at the French Lycée, the Colegio Lestonnac and Mary Mount International High School in Barcelona, as well as at the Sagrados Corazones in El Escorial (Madrid). She completed her studies in England and Switzerland.
In 1965 the Baroness married the American actor Lex Barker, with whom she lived in California, Italy and Switzerland until his death in 1973. Together they built a house on the Costa Brava that remains one of the Baroness's favourite residences. While on holiday in Sardinia in the late 1970s Carmen Cervera met Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a businessman and art collector, whom she married in England in 1985 and from whom she was inseparable until the Baron's death in April 2002.
From the outset Carmen Thyssen shared the Baron's wish that his art collection should be accessible to the world. In addition, and with his support and guidance, she also embarked on creating her own art collection, thus continuing the artistic tradition of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family.
The Baroness's key role in bringing about the agreement between the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and the Kingdom of Spain, initially for the loan of the former and subsequently for its permanent acquisition by the Spanish State, has been widely recognised. The agreement was a historic event for Spain and also guaranteed that the Collection would remain undivided and that it would be displayed in the finest possible setting. In recognition of her endeavours, in 1988 the Baroness was awarded the Gran Cruz of Isabel la Católica, and in March 1999 the Gold Medal for Fine Arts, presented to her by King Juan Carlos of Spain in Santiago de Compostela. The Baroness has been an Academician of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de Cádiz since 2000. In 2009 she was awarded the Melvin Jones Prize by the Fundación Lions Club of Gijón, and the Alfiler de Oro Prize by the Asociación Mujer Siglo XXI in Bilbao in 2010.
In 1999 Baroness Thyssen publicly expressed her wish that her collection should be loaned for eleven years for display in the new galleries of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, once again revealing her dedication and commitment to making the Collection as accessible as possible. The signing of the loan agreement between the Baroness and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport marked the start of the Museum's extension project, which culminated with its opening in the spring of 2004.
March 2011 saw the opening of the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, which houses the Baroness's collection of Andalusian painting. Also scheduled to open is a new venue in San Feliu de Guixols (Gerona) that will house another outstanding group of works from her collection.