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Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

(October 31, 1875 - June 26, 1947)

The youngest son of August Thyssen (1842 - 1926) and Hedwig Pelzer (1854 - 1940) studies chemistry, physics and mineralogy in Munich, Berlin, Bonn and Heidelberg, where he gains a doctorate in chemistry in 1900.

Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, ca. 1946.
Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, ca. 1946.

After his marriage to the Hungarian baroness Margareta Bornemisza (1887 - 1971), he is adopted by his father-in-law who has no male heirs. In 1907 Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, bestows on Heinrich Thyssen and his descendants the right to adopt the name and coat of arms of Bornemisza de Kászon and bear the title of baron. Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza keeps his Hungarian citizenship up to his death in 1947, but in the 1920s and 1930s he intermittently acts as a German national. The marriage produces four children, one of them Hans Heinrich (b. 1921).

After the First World War, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza flees Austria and moves with his family to The Hague, where he becomes head of Thyssen's foreign interests, the most important one of which is now the Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza avoids business dependencies, which is why after the death of his father in 1926 he refuses to invest his inheritance in the newly created trust Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG. As a result August Thyssen's industrial assets are divided between his sons Fritz and Heinrich. Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza inherits the assets which are not to be transferred to Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, in particular the Dutch banking, trading and transport companies together with some German enterprises (August Thyssen-Bank AG, Preß- und Walzwerk AG, Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke GmbH and others) which he initially groups together in the company August Thyssen'sche Unternehmung des In- und Auslandes GmbH. Most of the firms are later combined in an independent corporate group Thyssen-Bornemisza, which over the following decades develops into a largely international holding company for a number of diversified industrial and service activities.

Successful but deliberately anonymous as a businessman, Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza gains international recognition as an art collector and connoisseur. In the 1920s Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza puts together an impressive collection of European paintings from the 14th to the early 19th century of the highest quality. In 1932 he buys and moves into the Villa Favorita in Castagnola-Lugano, where he installs a spacious gallery to house his art collection. After his death in 1947 his son Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza opens the gallery to the public.

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