Highlights of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The current Bilbao Fine Arts Museum was inaugurated in 1945. It is the result of the collections of the first Fine Arts Museum founded in 1908 and the Museum of Modern Art founded in 1924.

The current building of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

After the Spanish Civil War, buildings from both museums in Bilbao suffered significant damage. It was therefore decided to combine collections from both institutions into a single one and build another building to be located in the modern expansion district of the city.

The new art gallery was designed by architects Fernando Urrutia and Gonzalo Cárdenas, and it was inaugurated in 1945. However, the rapid grow of the collections meant that space quickly became insufficient. In 1970 the building was extended under the direction of Jorge de Barandiarán.

In the 1990s the need for museums and the lack of space for museum services forced a new architectural intervention. This construction work finished in 2001 and it is the current image of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

The collection of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

The source of the permanent collection of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum during its first years of existence was the result of the effort and interest of the city of Bilbao to become the reference centre in the art world. This meant that both public and private institutions, as well as private individuals, helped both in the acquisition and donation of very important pieces of works that gradually gave shape to the current and prestigious collection of Bilbao’s art gallery.


Talking about the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum means talking about Ignacio Zuloaga. The art gallery has nine pieces of work by the Basque painter: two drawings and seven canvas.

One of the most famous is the portrait of el Conde de Villamarciel, painted during his first years in Paris. It makes evident his contact with the synthetism from the late 19th century. Another important work is El Cardenal seated inside a sober room decorated with Castilian furniture, where the curtains drew allow us to contemplate the stunning landscape of the village of Sepúlveda.

Lastly, it is also very popular the portrait of the Condesa Mathieu de Noailles, lying in her divan staring into space. It is loaded with symbolism and theatricality. This is evidencied in both items located over the bedside table and the large backdrop, respectively.

Museo Bellas Artes de Bilbao
Ignacio Zuloaga. The Cardinal, 1912.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.
Ignacio Zuloaga. Portrait of Countess Mathieu de Noailles, 1913.

But the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum holds many other masterpieces that allow us to make a fascinating tour along the Art History in Spain, as well as elsewhere in the world.

In the field of painting, Lucas Cranach el Viejo and his work Lucrecia, which is an essential work in the Central European Renaissance, are popular. There are also the Anunciación by El Greco and the tenebrism of San Sebastián curado por las santas mujeres by José de Ribera.

Impressionism in Spain was introduced by Adolfo Guiard with his work Aldeanita del clavel rojo.

Synthetism was introduced by Paul Gaugin and his work Lavanderas en Arlés. Figurative expressionism by Francis Bacon and informalism by Antoni Tàpies.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
Adolfo Guiard. Country Girl with a Red Carnation, 1903.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.
Francis Bacon. Lying Figure in Mirror, 1971.

It is the same with the sculpture. It keeps Romanesque carvings, and pieces of iron signed by Eduardo Chillida. Nevertheless, the monumento a Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga has a particular interest. It was made by Francisco Durrio. It is located outside, next to the current entrance to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.

Plan your visit to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Location: Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Museo Plaza, 2. 48009 Bilbao.
GPS coordinates: 43º 15’58”N 2º56’16”O.
Phone: +34 944 396 060
Website: www.museobilbao.com

Getting to the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts by public transport is very convenient. You can do it by underground (Moyúa station), by tram (Abandoibarra and Guggenheim stop). Also by bus (lines 1,10,13, 18, 26, 27, 28, 38, 48, 56, 72, 77 and A3247 Bilbao-Airport).

Opening times: Wednesdays to Mondays, from 10.00 a.m to 8.00 p.m.
Admission fee: general 10€. There are some reduced and free admission fees to certain groups.
Free: de 18 a 20h.

If you would like to enjoy the city centre of Bilbao here you have our website with the best places to try tortilla, pintxos and hotels in case you want to overnight there.

Do not forget to visit the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum.

About the author