On the 22nd of March, IE hosted the conference “The Thyssen Bornemisza’s collection” run by Thyssen Museum’s Artistic Director Guillermo Solana. During which, in an entertaining way the personalities of the creators of the collection were analyzed. Later the lecturer did a quick overview of the most relevant pieces of the collection.

Officially, it is considered that the collection was formed by three generations of Thyssens. But in reality it was mostly done by the two latter ones, August and his son Heini. Mr. Solana described August’s preference for Germanic artists and neighboring Flemish, as well as Heini’s friendship with post war British artists, such as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

The collection became relevant in the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street Crash. During the hungry thirties most of the great fortunes had to sell their art collections. The lecturer used as an example August’s acquisition of the Portray of Giovanna Tornabuoni, by Ghilardao, to JP Morgan. When in 1947 August died, the collection was distributed among his sons so Heini spent the following years buying pieces to his siblings. Once the collection was mostly under one Thyssen, Heini continued-as his father did- buying Old Masters Paintings. Mr. Solana noted that, “the Baron didn’t dare to buy contemporary art until 1961, in Munich”. The turning point came with the acquisition of Emil Nolde’s The young couple, “and thereafter started buying Picasso, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Hopper, Kandinski, Mondrian…”

After analyzing the characters that built the collection, the lecturer remembered how Spain ended up hosting the collection. This was the question that generated the greatest interest in the latter Q&A round, as most of the people are unaware that the collection belongs to the Spanish state. Mr. Solana then shared with the audience his personal experience with the magnificent Villa Favorita, showing pictures of the palace by the Lugano Lake. The main reasons why the collection ended up in Spain can be summed up in: the Spanish government’s commitment to guarantee the integrity of the collection, its offer to house the collection in Vistahermosa’s Palace, and the profound influence of Heini’s last wife, Ms. Carmen Cervera.

In the last part of the conference, the speaker reviewed some of the most important pieces of the collection, from the Flemish primitives to Lucian Freud. Mr. Solana highlighted the importance of landscapes and architectural pictures, and emphasized the role of the collection in introducing Impressionism in Spain.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A round between the speaker and the IE community. In addition to the issue mentioned above, that concerning the ownership of the collection, it was especially interesting the question about the buying policy of the institution. Mr. Solana stated that. “due to the nature of the museum [the private collection of a dead person] the buying policy is symbolic, compared with the other big museums of Madrid”.


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