For me it was clearly the third art gallery in Madrid, after Thyssen Bornemisza and Prado. Predictably, it mostly accomodates Spanish art (well, also some occasional Italian, Flemish, Dutch and French works, a few of them quite important). According to its origin and purpose, the collection is EXTREMELY uneven, and many parts of it could only be interesting to experts, and most dedicated art freaks.
On the other hand, this museum proudly displays van Reymerswaele, Giovanni Bellini, Morales, El Greco, Ribera, Zurbaran, Murillo, among others, and, above all, two or three rooms of Goya, which in themselves make a visit to this museum an ABSOLUTE MUST to anyone seriously interested in art.
Otherwise, I was not impressed by the Spanish art of the XVIII and XIX centuries. But towards the beginning of the XX century, it became quite ingenious again. Spanish symbolism is most challenging and suggestive. What I haven't expected, is that the collection of MODERN Spanish art, featuring Gris, Dali, and some very cute living painters, would be WAY ABOVE the similar collection at the Museo Reina Sofia.
As side attractions, the Academy houses some other fancy objects, such as extremely crafty wax reliefs. You should go there in the morning, since the museum closes rather early. One day a week (was it Tuesday?), the entrance is free. Unfortunately, some of the rooms are unpredictably closed, due to the shortage of custodians, I guess. But if you insist with the available ones, they accompany you inside.
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