The Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings) of the Kunstmuseum Basel is the largest public collection of drawings, watercolours and prints in Switzerland (approx. 300,000 works). From an international perspective, it is one of the world's finest collections of works of art on paper.
The majority of the early holdings come from the collection of Basel lawyer Basilius Amerbach (1533-1591), which was purchased by the City of Basel in 1661, and the collection of Remigius Faesch, which was donated to the University of Basel in 1823.
The Amerbach collection, with its thick portfolios from the workshops of Upper Rhine artists - from Holbein to Hans Bock the Elder - not only continues to shape the character of the collection. Until well into the modern era, it also determined the trajectory of purchasing and collecting policies, even influencing the acquisition of an extensive group of pages from the sketchbooks of Paul Cézanne.
For the 20th century, work groups by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Bruce Nauman, Francesco Clemente, Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, Rosemarie Trockel, Martin Disler and others lend the collection its unique face. An acquisition policy giving priority to drawings further distinguishes the Kupferstichkabinett from other collections.
The acquisition of contemporary art is generously supported by the Karl August Burckhardt-Koechlin Fund, which has placed its collection on deposit at the Kupferstichkabinett.
The holdings of the Kupferstichkabinett are regularly presented in changing exhibitions, sometimes under a thematic heading. They are also made accessible in exhibition and collection catalogues. On request, originals can be examined in a study room.
Key Areas of the Collection of the Kupferstichkabinett
Masters of the 15th/16th Centuries, Watercolours and Drawings
Anonymous works from the 15th century, late 15th- and early 16th-century goldsmiths' designs from Augsburg and Basel, Martin Schongauer, Hans Holbein the Elder (84 individual sheets and a sketchbook), Albrecht Dürer (7 individual sheets and numerous illustrations for the comedies of Terence drawn on wood blocks), Hans Baldung Grien (17), Hans Kulmbach, Urs Graf (approx. 125 sheets: practically all of his surviving drawings), Niklaus Manuel Deutsch (approx. 75), Hans Leu, Hans Springinklee, Albrecht Altdorfer (4), Wolf Huber, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger (approx. 150 sheets: by far the largest collection in the world), Ambrosius Holbein (5), Tobias Stimmer (approx. 30), and other late 16th-century Swiss masters, including Amman, Bock, Lindtmeyer, Wägmann, Ringler, Murer and Plepp.
Masters of the 17th Century, Watercolours and Drawings
Matthäus Merian the Elder, Maria Sibylla Merian, Joseph Werner, Johann Heinrich Schönfeld, Joachim von Sandrart, Abraham Bloemaert, Hendrik Goudt, among others.
Masters of the 18th Century, Watercolours and Drawings
Anton Graff, Caspar Wolf, Salomon Gessner, Johann Heinrich Füssli, many other Swiss artists, a number of Germans, very few Italian and French artists.
Masters of the 19th Century, Watercolours and Drawings
Switzerland: numerous minor masters, with noteworthy groups of works by Wolfgang Adam Toepffer, Hieronymus Hess, Arnold Böcklin, Frank Buchser (over 10,000 drawings from the estate of the artist, both as individual sheets and in sketchbooks,), Ferdinand Hodler, Albert Welti.
20th/21st Centuries, Watercolours and Drawings
Important works by Pablo Picasso (9), Georges Braque (11), Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Marc Chagall, Amadeo Modigliani, Paul Klee (32), Jean Arp, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, Oskar Kokoschka, Oskar Schlemmer, Julius Bissier.
15th - 21st Centuries, Prints
From the earliest German single-sheet woodcuts and 15th-century copperplate engravings to Pablo Picasso, Barnett Newman and the latest generation of artists; a precious collection of books containing original prints, from a 15th-century Netherlandish block book and Holbein's Images of Death to books by Merian and Goya, and on to books by such modern artists as Picasso, Matisse, Dubuffet and Tàpies.