Americans can paint (when they put their mind to it)
At first, the Old Masters collection of Thyssen-Boremisza in Madrid disappoints. It can hardly do otherwise: the expectations set up by the famous pieces they hold — a Claude, two Bronzinos, a Velvet Breughel, a Carpaccio — are so very high. But the collection suffers from the “late-arrival” syndrome: by the time collection-gathering swung into full tilt, the best pieces had already been permanently taken off the market: as a result, with the exception of the handful famous pieces everyone already knows about, T-B is full of minor masters, and very minor works by the great masters, and even minorer ones only attributed to them — usually not very convincingly. (It’s supposed to have an important post 1900-collection, but how on earth would I know anything about that?)
The museum does contain a wonderful surprise, however: a large collection of late 19th century American academic landscapes — which are very good indeed. If it weren’t for the topics, you’d swear these were 17th century Dutch. This is perhaps the greatest pleasure one can experience in a museum: to discover something completely new and unheard of.
Thank you, Miss T.
PS. If, like me, you are new to this world, here are a few names for you: William Bradford , John Frederick Kensett , Frederic Edwin Church , Albert Bierstadt , William Trost Richards.