About the collection

The Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) presides over excellent collections of Italian, early German, and Netherlandish drawings whose scope and quality is unsurpassed. The museum boasts rich holdings of works by Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Altdorfer and Matthias Grünewald, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel and Rembrandt, Claude Lorrain and Jean-Antoine Watteau, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Daniel Chodowiecki and Francisco de Goya. There is furthermore no better place to study German draughtsmanship of the 19th century. This area of the collection includes a large group of drawings by Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Blechen, as well as the private collections of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Adolph Menzel.

Printmaking from all periods and schools is represented in the museum´s collections in an overwhelming quality, scope, and diversity. Particular highlights in our holdings are formed by works from the high-modern period, with Edvard Munch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Pablo Picasso, the art of the postwar period, with Alberto Giacometti, Pop art with Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella, and Conceptual art and Minimal art. A new and emerging strength in the collection is in the area of contemporary art, with ongoing accessions by internationally important artists active in Berlin.

Works of art on paper react particularly sensitively to light. For this reason, and due to the sheer scale of the collection, the museum’s works are not on permanent display. The Kupferstichkabinett instead holds temporary exhibitions and displays of works from its collection. In addition, visitors are invited to study original artworks of their choice in the study room.

The Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) has a long history dating back to 1652, when the 'Great Elector' (Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg) purchased around 2500 drawings and watercolours for the royal court library. Systematic collecting activity in this area only got under way two centuries later, in 1831, with the official establishment of the Kupferstichkabinett, which was initially housed in the Altes Museum and later the Neues Museum as the third department of the Royal Prussian Museums (the precursor to today’s Staatliche Museen). The other two departments at the time were the Antikensammlung and the Gemäldegalerie. The purchase of large private collections vastly expanded the museum collection in the 19th century, the most notable of which being the collections of: Karl Ferdinand Friedrich von Nagler in 1835, Vincenzo and Michelangelo Pacetti in 1843, Alexander Hamilton (10th Duke of Hamilton) and William Alexander Hamilton (12th Duke of Hamilton), both in 1882, and finally Adolf von Beckerath in 1902.

In the 20th century new accessions have tended to concentrate once again on contemporary trends and styles in art, albeit without neglecting more traditional areas. Due to the painful loss of scores of modern artworks which the Nazis confiscated and often wilfully destroyed, concrete steps were taken after the war to rebuild the museum’s collection of prints originating from the first half of the 20th century. Thanks to these measures, we have since managed to close the gaps in the collection, for instance regarding German Expressionist prints and drawings. From the sixties onwards one major focus in our acquisitions activity has been on works by English and American Pop artists.

After 1945, the Kupferstichkabinett was one of the many collections to suffer institutional fracturing through the political division of the city. After the subsequent remerger of the collections from East and West Berlin, the Kupferstichkabinett took up permanent residency at the Kulturforum in March 1994, and has again since enjoyed close proximity to other collections of European art at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Recently, the collection has been able to acquire several important individual sheets and groups of works by Rembrandt, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Franz Gertsch, Caspar David Friedrich, and an entire collection of rare German masterpieces dating from the late Gothic period and early Renaissance, known collectively as the 'Kleiner Klebeband', ('Small Album'). We have also been fortunate to receive several donations and bequests of private collections, including from: Wilhelm Soldan, Hans + Uschi Welle (donation), Haralampi G. Oroschakoff (donation), Paul Maenz Gerd de Vries, Christoph Müller (donation), as well as a part of the Marzona Collection (partly acquisition, partly donation).