The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection is a private collection that arose out of the enormous interest in art always shown by the Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza. To begin with, Baron Thyssen played an active part, and alongside him the Baroness took her first steps as a collector. Together they collected a large number of works making up the present day private collection of Carmen Thyssen.
The collection focuses mainly on the 19th and 20th centuries and prioritizes three areas: Spanish painting, North American painting and European painting, with outstanding representations of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Expressionism. TOMÁS LLORENS Former Chief Curator Of The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
The Baroness is one of the most important art collectors in the world at the present time, and she is greatly admired both in Spain and on an international level. Carmen Cervera, Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza, was born in Barcelona into a family that fostered her love of art. Her father, an industrial engineer and businessman was a keen painter and collected paintings by Catalan artists. Carmen Cervera received an international education in centres such as the Lycée Français, the Lestonnac School and the Mary Mount International High School in Barcelona, as well as the Sacred Hearts of El Escorial (Madrid). She finished her studies in England and Switzerland.
In 1965 she married the American actor Lex Barker, with whom she lived in California, Italy and Switzerland until his death in 1973. Together they built a home on the Costa Brava, which is still one of her favourite refuges. While on holiday in Sardinia at the end of the 1970s, Carmen Cervera met Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a businessman and art collector. They married in England in 1985 and were inseparable until his death in April, 2002.
Carmen Thyssen always shared with the Baron the wish that their art collection should be viewed by the whole world. Together with him, with his support and guidance, she also began her activities as an art collector, in this way continuing the artistic tradition of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family.
The Baroness’s essential work has been widely recognized for both disseminating art and achieving the agreement between the collection belonging to Baron Thyssen, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, and the Kingdom of Spain, first as a loan and then its definitive acquisition by the Spanish State. This agreement signified a historic event for Spain and guarantees that the Collection will not be broken up in the future and will be exhibited and viewed in the best conditions. It was because of this that she received the Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic Queen in 1988, and, in March, 1999, the Fine Arts Gold Medal, presented by His Majesty the King in Santiago de Compostela. In addition, she has been a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Cadiz since 2000. In 2009, she was awarded an Honorary Degree by the ESERP School of Business and Social Sciences, the Melvin Jones Award from the Lions Club Foundation in Gijón and the Golden Pin prize from the Twenty-first Century Woman Association of Bilbao (in 2010). In 2011, she received the Grand Cross of the Order of the Second of May from the Madrid Regional Government. In the same year, she was named an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Telmo, and Honorary Ambassadress of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Malaga, as well as Woman of the Year in Malaga in the SUR Culture Prizes and Woman of the Year in the Madrid Initiative Prizes for 2011, as well as receiving the Gold Medal of the School of Protocol and Institutional Relations in Barcelona. In 2012 she was granted the Maestro Escudero Arts Prize, the ESEEA International Prize for Leadership and named Malaga’s Woman of the Year by the Malaga Association of Publishers. She also received the Paul Harris Recognition Diploma from the Costa Brava Rotary Club, the Bridges of the World International Prize for her “Work as a Patron”, the Luis Cierco Prize for Tourism Promotion from the Marbella Tourist Office and the Protecturi Prize for the Protection of Historical Heritage.
The Cofrades Mantilla Prize in honour of the city of Marbella was presented to her in 2013, as well as the ADEPMA Businesswoman of the Year prize, the Sport and Culture Prize for the Best Cultural Initiative and the Malaga Honour Medal from Malaga County Council, and the Gold Medal from the ESERP School of Business and Social Sciences. In 2014 she received the TELVA Prize for the Best Ambassador for Madrid in the World, the 2014 Starlite Philanthropy Award, the 2014 Laurel Platinum International Award and the Police Merit Cross with white ribbon awarded by the State Security Services. In July, 2015, she was granted the Tourism Merit Medal by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism for her outstanding work at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid and in October Prize of Cultural & Artistic Labour Carreño-Miranda (The Corps of Nobility–The Principality of Asturias). In 2018 she was granted the Award of Iberoamerican Patronage, Culture Award (ARI Awards) and Trajectory Award AFA. In 2019 she was also granted the Gold Medal in Philanthropy by the Pro-Art and Culture Group.
March, 2011, saw the inauguration of the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga, which mainly houses the Baroness’s important collection of Andalusian paintings. Likewise, the Carmen Thyssen Space was inaugurated in the summer of 2012 in Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Gerona). Located in the Abbot’s Palace at the monastic complex in the town, this arts centre puts on temporary exhibitions from June to October with different subjects from the Carmen Thyssen Collection.
The Baroness currently holds the positions of Vice President of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation in Madrid, President of the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga, President of the Carmen Thyssen Collection of Catalan Painting managed by the Carmen Thyssen Space in Sant Feliu de Guíxols and Honorary Vice President of the Andorra Museum Foundation.
The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection came into being as a natural continuation of the ThyssenBornemisza Collection and is today one of the most important in the world of private collections. The first public presentation of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection as such took place in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid in 1996 with the exhibition From Canaletto to Kandinsky, it brought together a selection of works which set out to indicate the main thematic lines guiding the pictorial interests of the baron and baroness. This exhibition was only the first of a long series around the world: Shangai, Beijing, New York at The Frick Collection, Tokio, Mexico, Lugano, Rome, Brussels, Bonn, and of course including in the main cities in Spain.
The key pillars of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection are seventeenth-century Dutch painting, Italian vedute from the 18th century, Naturalist landscape painting from the 19th century, both French and North American, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and the earliest avant-garde movements of the 20th century, with special emphasis on German Expressionist painting. At the same time, alongside this wide-ranging international collection, the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection was also open to Spanish painting from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as other artistic manifestations. The numerous acquisitions by the baroness have brought out, as has already been said, a close affinity between her tastes and preferences and those of her husband.
Since 2004 most of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection is on view at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid as a temporary loan. Likewise, March 2011 saw the inauguration of the Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga, which hosts mainly repertoire of the 19th century Spanish School, especially the series of Andalusian paintings. Another Thyssen space was inaugurated in 2012 in San Feliu de Guixols (Gerona), Espai Carmen Thyssen, as a centre for annual temporary exhibitions dedicated to the Carmen Thyssen Collection.
The Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga houses more than two hundred and seventy works of art from Baroness Thyssen’s Collection. These works are on deposit in the Villalón Palace since 2011, on free loan for fifteen years.
The Collection is divided into four sections. The first group covers a broad time span, from 13th to 18th century, and groups together works under the generic title of Old Masters.
The second group are a set of paintings from the early 19th century dedicated to the Romantic and costumbrista genres. Important names for this period are Genaro Pérez Villaamil, Manuel Barrón y Carrillo, José Dominguez Bécquer, José Jiménez Aranda o Joaquín Dominguez Bécquer, and the artist from Madrid, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez.
The third group focuses on the second half of the 19th century painting and is a section dedicated to Naturalism and the preciousness school. We find fundamental figures from the Spanish artistic scene such as Mariano Fortuny, José Benlliure, Raimundo de Madrazo and Carlos de Haes, a landscape painter.
The fourth and last group is dedicated to the closing years of the 19th century with artists such as Darío de Regoyos, Aureliano de Beruete, Joaquín Sorolla, Cecilio Pla, Muñoz Degrain, Julio Romero de Torres, Francisco Iturrino, Ignacio Zuloaga, Gutiérrez Solana, Ramón Casas, Hermén Anglada-Camarasa and Ricard Canals.
In short, this selection illustrates Baroness Thyssen’s commitment to collecting, at the same time as her keenness to explain a wide panoramic vision of more than a century and a half of the history of Spanish painting.