Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection is a continuation of the Collection of the Museo Thyssen. In addition, it is characterised by a particular focus on Spanish art.
Encouraged by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Carmen Cervera began to acquire works of art around 1987, but it was in 1993 that she became fully aware of her role as a collector. The Museo Thyssen had opened for the first time in October of the previous year and in June 1993 the Spanish State agreed to purchase the collection. Having secured the long-term future of the core of the collection, the Baron then divided the rest of his paintings and other possessions between his family members. To avoid the risk of another division of the collection, as had taken place following the death of the 1st Baron Thyssen, it was decided that most of the works would pass into the ownership of the Baroness, by then closely involved in the new Museum and in the new acquisitions being made by the Baron. This group, comprising works by Canaletto, Fragonard, Courbet, Boudin, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin, Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Kirchner and other artists, today comprises the nucleus of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
All true collectors, however, have their own tastes. Thus, just as Baron Thyssen expanded his collection to encompass modern and contemporary art, the Baroness started to focus on 19th- and early 20th-century Spanish art with the aim of raising its international profile and status. As she noted in 1997: "My taste for Spanish painting, and particularly for 19th-century Catalan painting, is probably the most important contribution that I can make to my family's collecting tradition." Since 1993 works by leading names of Spanish art have been added to the collection, among them Lucas Velázquez, Pérez Villaamil, Haes, Martí i Alsina, Fortuny, Rico, Rusiñol, Casas, Sorolla, Beruete, Regoyos, Zuloaga, Iturrino, Mir, Anglada i Camarasa, Sunyer, and Solana.
This interest in Spanish art does not, however, mean that international painting was neglected, and over the years the Baroness expanded this part of the collection, always with the advice and involvement of Baron Thyssen. In addition to the names mentioned above, from 1993 onwards further paintings were acquired by Simone Martini, Van Goyen, Guardi, Friedrich, Corot, Daubigny, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac, Cross, Derain, Nolde, Pechstein, Braque, Delaunay, and Beckmann, among others. With these and other acquisitions, the Baron and Baroness's shared appreciation of landscape painting - "with its ability to transport us to remote places" - joined forces with the Baroness's interest in art movements most closely associated with a free type of handling and expressive use of colour.
In 1996 the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection was shown for the first time in Madrid to great critical success. Since then it has been exhibited in more than 30 exhibitions of different types, shown in various cities around the world. At the same time, the Baroness's desire to make the collection accessible to the public in a permanent manner led to the signing of a loan agreement in 1999, in which the Museo Thyssen would be loaned 655 works (317 from her collection of international art and 338 from the Spanish collection) for a period of eleven years. Since 2004 the international collection has been on display in the new galleries of the Museum, while most of the Spanish collection will soon be seen in the Museo Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza in Malaga, scheduled to open in March.
Juan Ángel López-Manzanares