The Department of Prints and Drawings holds one of the world's greatest works on paper collections.
It consists of about 50,000 drawings and more than two million prints. Together, they chart the development of the graphic arts in Europe from the 1400s to the present day, and their spread to the Americas and Australia.
The collection includes outstanding holdings by the greatest graphic artists, such as Dürer, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Kollwitz and Picasso. And there are major collections of historical, satirical and topographical prints, trade and visiting cards, fans and playing cards.
History of the collection
The British Museum's collection of Western prints and drawings can be traced back to Sir Hans Sloane, whose wide-ranging holdings included an album of drawings by the German Renaissance master, Albrecht Dürer.
Until the 1830s, the graphic collection expanded largely through bequests (such as the Rembrandt prints left by Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode in 1799), or through gifts – the earliest was from British watercolourist Francis Towne in 1816.
In 1835, the Museum bought John Sheepshanks' collection of Dutch and Flemish prints and drawings. This marked the start of our ambition to collect graphic holdings charting the development and spread of the graphic arts from the 1400s to the present.
The department continues to add contemporary and historic works on paper through gift, bequest and purchase. It is committed to researching and cataloguing and sharing the collection.
- Hugo Chapman – Simon Sainsbury Keeper of Prints and Drawings
- Stephen Coppel – Assistant Keeper, Head of Modern and Contemporary Prints and Drawings (1880 to the present)
- Catherine Daunt – Hamish Parker Curator of Modern and Contemporary Graphic Art
- Olenka Horbatsch – Assistant Keeper, Dutch and Flemish Prints and Drawings before 1880
- Jennifer Ramkalawon – Assistant Keeper, Western Modern and Contemporary Graphic Art (1880 to the present)
- Isabel Seligman – Monument Trust Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawing
- Sarah Vowles – Assistant Keeper, Smirnov Family curator of Italian and French Prints and Drawings before 1880
The work of the department is supported by a team of Collections Managers and administrative staff.
The staff of the Department of Prints and Drawings conduct extensive research as part of their work in cataloguing, preparing exhibitions and making new acquisitions. Read about our current research project on Netherlandish drawings.