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The Art

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Prints and Drawings Department, British Museum, London







London, London


Museum Member (CAS)


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The British Museum is the national museum of human history, art and culture that was established in 1753. It was originally based on the bequest of the collection of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753). It opened its doors in 1759 in Montagu House on the site of its current building.

Its Department of Prints and Drawings, founded in 1808, holds one of the world's largest works on paper collections. It has about 50,000 Western drawings and more than two million prints. The development of the graphic arts in Europe from the 1400s to the present day, and their spread to the Americas and Australia, is covered. The collection includes outstanding holdings by the greatest printmakers, such as Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, William  Hogarth, Goya, Kathe Kollwitz and Picasso. And there are major collections of historical, satirical and topographical prints, trade and visiting cards, fans and playing cards. Over 200 years this has included gifts and bequests as well as purchases.

The Contemporary Art Society had a special fund, between 1919-54, for the purchase and donation of prints and drawings to public museums. It was administered by Campbell Dodgson (1867-1948) and A. M. Hind (1880-1957), also Keepers at the Prints and Drawings Department, when the BM was able to acquire nearly 2,500 modern works of artists from an extensive range of European countries. And most recently, the department has received from the CAS works by contemporary British artists like Phyllida Barlow and Gillian Wearing.


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