A visit to Madrid for the art enthusiast may include a few stops at the Museo del Prado, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, all wonderful museums full of incredible art. But if looking for something more challenging and personal, I would suggest visiting these three lesser known art museums with just as impressive works and artists.
And the best part is because they are some of Madrid’s hidden secrets, you won’t be fighting crowds to view and enjoy art the way one is supposed to. The Museo del Sorolla, Casa Encendidia, and Museo Lazaro Galdiano range in variety, era, and technique and style. All have incredible works to offer.
Museo Sorolla (Sorolla Museum)
If you are looking for an impressive private collection of art you will want to visit Madrid’s Museo de Sorolla. Joaquin Sorolla, was Spain’s most renowned Impressionists and at this museum you will find his largest amount of works depicting his life through bright, uplifting masterpieces presented in what was once his family home. As you enter the gated doors you are enveloped in a lush garden. The smell of fresh flowers, the sound of each fountain and the brightness of the Spanish tile distract you from the impressionism you originally came to see.
The first room in Sorolla’s former house is full of contrast. Each painting captures a light moment, in cool colors. Automatically conflicted with the maroon background of the walls, it gives a sense of balance and compliments each piece of art. I found his work Despues del Bano (After the Bath) especially beautiful and it depicts a woman relaxing and drying off after taking a bath. It was the first painting I saw as I walked into the mansion. Its shades of light blue and cream lead your eye gracefully through the painting. It’s soft and vulnerable and absolutely breathtaking.
As the museum is Sorolla’s house, I found myself getting lost and imagining what his life would have been like. His easel still stands in the studia and there are his paint brushes lining walls which give the impression Sorolla just stepped out of the room.
In the living quarters of the house, there are original pieces of furniture and one can imagine Sorolla and his family sitting at the dining room table. The wooden floors creak with every step as you silently walk and enjoy each masterpiece. As I spoke with some of the museum experts I asked why they enjoyed Sorolla so much. Laura, 54, said, “I especially appreciate Saliendo de bano (After the Bath) because the painting is tender, as it shows a mother holding her child by the ocean and as a mother I can relate.” I couldn’t agree more with her statement. Sorolla had a talent for making viewers feel affection for those around them. As a fan of impressionism this museum stirred a lot of emotions in me.
For the modern eye looking for modern art, you will find the Casa Encendida nothing short of entertaining. With new exhibitions every four months there is always more to discover. This modern art museum rents rooms to new artists on their journey to fame. They then transform these galleries into incredible exhibitions of modern art. Walking through Ibon Aranbem’s exhibition felt grungy and intrusive. The gallery is dark, and the lighting leads my eye to the left where I see floor to ceiling photos of stone walls. Following the photos is a film of objects being taken apart making viewers feel uncomfortable. After the video you are led to deconstructed houses being rebuilt in unusual ways.
This gallery portrays exactly what the artist wants you to feel, as do the rest of the exhibits. This museum is unique because of its pursuit of new and intriguing artists. The rotation brings new exhibitions in so often that it never gets old and there is always something new to see. The location of this museum is in a less crowded part of Madrid, easily accessible and never busy. On an average afternoon you may be enjoying the gallery all by yourself, really allowing the art to overcome your emotions.
Museo Lazaro Galdiano
The Museo Lazaro Galdiano, is a private collection of art from all major eras. Galdiano, a wealthy lawyer, and his wife collected art for years and the result is overwhelming. The collection is housed in his mansion, in another secluded and quiet area of the city. Entering the gated grounds really brings an appreciation to the enormity of Galdiano’s house. With four floors to explore I still felt completely overcome with this diverse collection.
Each room has crowned, painted ceilings that introduce different themes and moods throughout time. This gesture enraptures viewers so well that it almost distracts you from the famous paintings themselves. The first floor holds renowned artists like Goya, Velazquez and El Greco. The feeling of the mansion is just so powerful that the paintings scream for attention without trying too hard.
Museum worker Luis Jimenez, 29, shared what he enjoyed most about working at this museum, “I like how not very many people know about this museum, only the locals, it makes the art and museum more special.” He was right, because the museum was less crowded. I felt more in tune with the art, and because each room was themed with ceiling paintings and carved crown molding it was an incredible experience. It felt more personal, and enjoyable rather than fighting crowds at the Prado. I was soaked in emotion of artists works that are just as famous in bigger museums but at the Museo Lazaro Galdiano I was able to enjoy each painting more.
Famous works found in the Lazaro include Goya’s El Aquelarre (Witches’ Sabbath) or Bosch’s meditaciones de San Juan el bautista (Meditations of St. John the Baptist).
Museums like the Prado and Reina Sofia are incredible, and highly recommended, but if you have already seen the masterpieces behind those walls and are looking for a quaint place to enjoy art then these three museums are definitely worth it.
Calle General Martinez Campos 37
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 -8 pm
Sundays 10am – 3pm
General admission: 3 euros (about $3.50)
La Casa Encendida
Ronda de Valencia 2
Opening hours: Tuesday- Sunday: 10am-10pm
General admission: 3 euros (about $4)
Museo Lazaro Galdiano
Calle de Serrano 122
Sunday: 10am- 3pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 10am- 4:30pm
General admission: 6 euros ( around $8.00)