A Madrid Art Tour: Discovering the City’s Golden Art Triangle

A Madrid Art Tour: Discovering the City’s Golden Art Triangle

Going for gold

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Photo credit: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Madrid Art Tour: Ever since I was a child, art has played a significant role in my life. My mother’s passion for art meant that she would often talk to me about the different paintings and artists that inspired her and gave me exciting insights into the art world that she had read about or learned on her art history courses.

I find that the beauty of a piece of art lies in its ability to convey a different meaning to every single person who looks at it. They say that a picture tells a thousand words, and I am fascinated by how art reveal stories that even the artist themselves may not have realised they were telling. Art takes us back to the past and suggests the future, it conveys the emotions of the artist in a moment of time and takes us on a journey into the innermost depths of the human mind.

That being said, just like anything else, art is something that is not for everyone. While my mother loves the work of Tracey Emin, my father – to put it bluntly – thinks it’s a load of rubbish. But there are some pieces of art that are just so outstanding that people from across the world flock to see them. While the Louvre in Paris displays the Mona Lisa and Florence plays host to Michaelangelo’s David, there is one place in the world that is home to a whole collection of some of the most incredible paintings of all time. That place is Madrid and by going on a Madrid art tour you will discover the Golden Triangle of Art…

The Golden Triangle

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Photo credits: Museo Nacional del Prado | Museo Reina-Sofia | Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

On the borders of Madrid’s beautiful Retiro Park, you will find three of the most stunning art galleries in the world. Embark on a Madrid art tour you will discover that the Golden Triangle is comprised of three museums: the Museo Nacional del Prado (commonly known as El Prado), the Museo Reina-Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. As the most famous of the trio, the Prado is home to some of the best-known masterpieces of European art, but it’s not just the inside that is impressive. Designed in 1785 and opened to the public as a gallery in 1819, the Prado building is one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in the world today and a highlight on a Madrid art tour. Its intricate stone carvings and striking columns provide a fitting introduction to the collection of celebrated artworks inside.

 The Prado

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Photo credits: Museo Nacional del Prado

The first stop on this Madrid art tour is Museo Nacional del Prado. Its permanent collection is made up of more than seven thousand paintings and one thousand sculptures, as well as thousands of original prints, drawings, artworks and historic documents. Within the Prado’s exquisite walls, there are more than 1300 works on display covering the period up until the mid-19th century. Some of the most celebrated works include Angelico’s The Annunciation, Rubens’ The Three Graces and Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Tintoretto. Many of the works on display in the Prado belong to the Spanish Royal Family, which goes some way to explaining the exceptional artistic standard.

Another must-see on any Madrid art tour is Goya’s The Executions. It hangs on the walls within two separate rooms entirely dedicated to Velasquez and Goya, while these galleries also display Velasquez’ Las Meninas – a painting controversial for its depiction of King Felipe IV and Queen María de Austria, who are reflected in a mirror in the back of the room. Las Meninas is so intricate and multi-layered that it doesn’t just fascinate us mere mortals; after seeing the painting, Pablo Picasso was inspired to create a series of works dedicated to deconstructing its many details and stories. Today, Picasso’s Las Meninas paintings hang in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and again display the many ways that art can tell a story.

Second time round

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Photo credits: Museo Reina-Sofia

At the next point of the triangle and the next stop on this Madrid art tour stands the Reina-Sofia Museum. Showcasing the many ways in which the three galleries of the Golden Triangle complement one another, the Reina-Sofia picks up the art story where the Prado left off – in the mid-19th century. The most famous work on display here is Picasso’s Guernica. Depicting a critical moment during the Spanish Civil War, there is no other artwork in the world that conveys the horror, tragedy and pure carnage of war in quite the same way.

Elsewhere, the museum’s displays cover the many artistic schools that have emerged since the mid-19th century. Among the paintings, there are some great examples of masterpieces that emerged from the Surrealist, Cubist, Expressionist and Abstract movements with paintings from Goya, Dali, Max Ernst and Francis Bacon among others.

The final point

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Photo credits: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

At the final point in the triangle and the last stop on this Madrid art tour, sits the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which is housed in the neoclassic Villahermosa Palace on the Paseo del Prado. The museum displays the personal collection of Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza that he purchased from American millionaires and was later bought by the Spanish government for the museum’s inauguration in the early 1990s. The Thyssen-Bornemisza complements the other two museums in the triangle by offering a comprehensive collection that covers every significant period in the history of art and fills in the gaps in the art story.

The highly original group of paintings illustrates the most significant artistic schools of recent years using the works of masters including Gauguin, Picasso, Cezanne and Lautrec. Some of the most outstanding works come from famed Italian artists, including Titian’s The Virgin and the Child and Caravaggio’s Saint Catherine Of Alexandra, making this one of the highlights on a Madrid art tour. Its Impressionist and post-Impressionist collections have received particular acclaim, with a display that includes paintings from Manet, Pissarro, Monet and Van Gogh.

Where to stay

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The Hotel Urban is one of Madrid’s finest luxury hotels, situated just five minutes’ walk from the Golden Triangle. Home to its very own art collection and designed in a unique avant-garde architectural style, the Urban also has a beautiful rooftop bar where you can enjoy a drink after a day spent on a riveting Madrid art tour.