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.
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.
Matthäus Merian the Elder, Maria Sibylla Merian, Joseph Werner, Johann Heinrich Schönfeld, Joachim von Sandrart, Abraham Bloemaert, Hendrik Goudt, among others.
Anton Graff, Caspar Wolf, Salomon Gessner, Johann Heinrich Füssli, many other Swiss artists, a number of Germans, very few Italian and French artists.
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.
Germany: substantial groups of works by Joseph Anton Koch, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Adrian Ludwig Richter, Moritz von Schwind, Anselm Feuerbach, Hans von Marées.
France: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, J. François Millet, Paul Cézanne (211 drawings from several sketchbooks), Odilon Redon, Auguste Rodin.
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.
Switzerland: Ferdinand Hodler, René Auberjonois, Otto Meyer-Amden, Walter Kurt Wiemken, Alberto Giacometti, Robert Müller, Bernhard Luginbühl, Franz Eggenschwiler, Dieter Roth, Markus Raetz, Martin Disler, Anselm Stalder.
Germany: Joseph Beuys, Horst Antes, Georg Baselitz, A.R. Penck, Rosemarie Trockel.
U.S.A.: Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Bruce Nauman, Brice Marden, Claes Oldenburg, Roni Horn, Robert Gober.
Italy: Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino.
Belgium: Jan Fabre, Michaël Borremans.
Russia: Pavel Pepperstein.
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.