Prints and Drawings (Room 90), Upper floor

Exhibitions of prints and drawings are changed several times a year because long exposure to light causes works on paper to fade and discolour.

Changing displays

Maggi Hambling: Touch: Works on Paper

8 September - 29 January 2017

This exhibition presents an important survey of works on paper that traces Maggi Hambling’s engagement with drawing throughout her career. It includes work from the British Museum’s collection, loans from the National Portrait Gallery and Tate, and rarely seen work from private collections and the artist’s studio.

More about this exhibition 

Maggi Hambling,Sebastian in a Hermès scarf (detail). Charcoal on paper, 2004. 1524 x 1016 mm.


French Portrait Drawings from Clouet to Courbet

8 September - 29 January 2017

The British Museum has a remarkable collection of French portrait drawings, including examples by the most celebrated artists – from Clouet, Watteau and Ingres to Fantin-Latour, Courbet and Toulouse-Lautrec. Many have not been widely displayed, so this exhibition is a chance to see beautiful, rarely seen works. The exhibition illustrates the development of portrait drawing from the Valois and Bourbon kings to the upheavals of the Revolution, Napoleon’s Empire and beyond.

More about this exhibition


Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), Self-portrait (detail). Black chalk and charcoal, 1852.


On Not Knowing: The Bridget Riley Art Foundation and Central Saint Martins at the British Museum

July - November 2016

For me, drawing is an inquiry, a way of finding out – the first thing that I discover is that I do not know.   

Bridget Riley

For Riley, drawing begins with a moment of ignorance, an encounter with the unknown that – after an initial panic, a recalibration of one’s position – can yield unimaginable fruits. To understand drawing as such recognizes its role as a research process, a means not only of observation and record, but also of enquiry, eliciting a renewed understanding of its object.

In the past two years, The Bridget Riley Art Foundation has sought to encourage more art students to use the Prints and Drawings Study Room, taking inspiration from its rich and diverse holdings of graphic work.  Supported by the Bridget Riley Art Foundation, ‘Lines of Thought: Drawings from the British Museum’ will showcase key pieces from the British Museum’s graphic collection, and opens at Poole Museum on September 3rd 2016.

This display presents the work of BA Fine Arts students from Central Saint Martins alongside works from The British Museum. Organised by their pathway leader Sarah Cole, the students came to the Study Room with tutor Rachel Cattle. Workshops encouraged students to explore their individual practice in relation to drawings from the collection and produced a range of sensitive and creative responses, of which only a fraction can be shown here.

Barre #3

Eliza Wimperis (b.1995), Barre #3, 2016, charcoal on paper. On loan from the artist.


Recent French Acquisitions

19 July - November 2016

In 2015 the British Museum was fortunate enough to acquire two important 17th-century French drawings. Nicolas Poussin’s Death of the Virgin is a very early drawing by the artist, dating from just before his journey to Rome, which affords an understanding of a less familiar period of his career. The St Mary Magdalene is the first work to enter the collection by Poussin’s fellow artist and rival Simon Vouet, whose Italianate style formed the basis of the French Baroque.

The drawings are displayed alongside some of the Museum’s finest recent French acquisitions, ranging from rare 17th-century satirical French prints to a silhouette of the violinist Niccolò Paganini and a series of exquisite medal designs, made for Napoleon by the artist Louis Lafitte.


Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), The Death of the Virgin, 1623, red chalk, pen and brown ink and watercolour, squared in both black and white chalk. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and   allocated to the  British Museum 2015. 2015,7017.1


Permanent displays

Two works from the department are normally on display in the Museum:

Grayson Perry, 'Map of an Englishman' (detail) 
Michelangelo, Epifania


Other prints and drawings can be seen in the Study Room.