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Museums of Madrid

Madeira Thayer
March 14, 2020

Hi all! I know many of my friends and family are wondering about how the coronavirus outbreak in Madrid is affecting my study abroad. I am planning on writing a coronavirus post after this one to update you all on my situation, but I’ve been planning on writing about the museums in Madrid for a while, and I don’t want to let coronavirus get in the way of that! For now, rest assured that I am safe and healthy.

The museums are definitely one of my favorite parts of Madrid. There are many different kinds of museums here, but the art museums are the highlight for me. One of my classes involves weekly visits to the famous Prado museum to see works by painters like El Greco and Velázquez. In another class called 20th Century Spanish Painters, we visit the Reina Sofía museum about twice a month to see works we learn about in class. And then, since tickets are almost always free or less than 4 euros for students, I often visit museums on the weekends. There are still many more I’ve yet to visit, but here is my personal ranking and descriptions of my four favorite museums in Madrid!

1. Museo Thyssen: The Thyssen has been one of my favorite museums in the world since I first visited it five years ago. I loved it so much that once I got home to California I revisited the museum through its virtual tour. If you’re interested in doing a virtual tour, here’s the link:


My favorite thing about this museum is its diversity. The collection begins on the top floor with rooms and rooms of religious art from the 13th and 14th centuries and winds down to the bottom floor’s modern works by artists like Lichtenstein and Pollock. As you move through its galleries you effectively walk through art history. It’s fascinating to notice when painters begin to add depth, play with light, use the poor as subjects, or incorporate elements of collage in their art. 

My second favorite thing about this museum is that it houses my favorite painting: Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening by Salvador Dalí. Dalí is my favorite painter because he displays immense technical talent with a paintbrush but uses that talent to do stuff that’s just super weird. Like many surrealists, Dalí was fascinated by the world of the subconscious, dreams, and paranoia. These themes are all present in Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee, which to me feels calmly dreamlike. It takes the surreal, the unknown, and the mysterious and makes it comforting rather than aggressive. Unfortunately, this painting is loaned out to another museum now, but I’m sure I will see it in the Thyssen again someday. 

2. Museo Sorolla: Whereas Museo Thyssen shows the history of art, Museo Sorolla shows the history of one artist: Joaquín Sorolla. The museum is in what used to be his home, so not only are the paintings beautiful, but the gardens and decorations are as well. My favorite painting in the Sorolla is Madre, which shows Sorolla’s wife with their firstborn child. It is particularly impressive to me how Sorolla creates so much depth in the painting while only using the color white. 

3. Reina Sofía: The Reina Sofía is the second most famous museum in Madrid. It essentially takes off where the Prado ends, so its works are mostly from the 19th century through the 21st century. My favorite painting in this museum is Cueva de Guanches by Óscar Domínguez, which depicts a fisherman and a cave of abstract looking monsters, faces, and animals. It is a symbol for a painter fishing through their subconscious for inspiration. 

The Reina Sofía also has two locations in Parque del Retiro, which are small but super cool (and have super weird art). It's really fun to make a quick stop one of these galleries while walking through the park. 

4. The Prado: Although it is the most famous museum in Madrid, the Prado comes in at number four for me simply because I generally prefer more modern art. My Prado class and frequent visits to this iconic museum have made me realize that the work by artists like Tiziano and Velázquez laid the groundwork for art I am more drawn to by Dalí and Matisse. So many artists have visited this museum, studied its works, and built on its contents. 

In all, the art I’ve seen for fun and learned about in class has stood out as a highlight of my last two months abroad. I’ve been able to explore my own tastes and expand my appreciation for the history and foundations of art. 


Madeira Thayer

<p>I'm a junior at Tufts University majoring in Economics and minoring in Spanish, Latin, and Education. My favorite extracurricular activity is my job at a nonprofit called Let's Get Ready that offers low-income students free SAT tutoring and college counseling. I also love to get outside for a run, hike, or outdoor yoga! I'm excited for all the academic, linguistic, cultural, and natural experiences abroad will bring me!</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Tufts University
Oakland, CA
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