The Museum of Prints and Drawings (Kupferstichkabinett) is a prints museum in Berlin, Germany. It is part of the Berlin State Museums, and is located in the Kulturforum on Potsdamer Platz. It is the largest museum of graphic arts in Germany and also one of the four most important collections of its kind worldwide. In his collection are more than 500,000 prints and some 110,000 other works of art on paper, drawings, pastels, watercolors and oil sketches.
The official foundation of the Kupferstichkabinett and thus the beginning of systematic collecting activity took place in 1831. The historical core of the collection was a collection of approx. 2,500 drawings and watercolors, which were acquired by Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg in 1652 and kept in the court library. The expansion of the collection in the 19th century was mostly achieved by the purchase of important private collections. The collection of the postmaster-general, Karl Ferdinand Friedrich von Nagler, was essential for the supraregional validity of the Kupferstichkabinett in 1835. This collection contained more than 50,000 works, mainly prints from the 15th to 17th centuries, as well as drawings by Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald And other old German masters. In the next decades, more high-quality collections came into the possession of the Cabinet, including the drawings of Sandro Botticelli in 1882 to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.
The emphasis is on European drawings and printed graphics from the Middle Ages to the present, as well as illuminated manuscripts, sketchbooks, topographical drawings and printing plates. The older artists include Dürer, Grünewald, Botticelli and Menzel, as well as Altdorfer, Bosch, Bruegel, Chodowiecki, Friedrich, Mantegna, Rembrandt, Schinkel, and Tiepolo. More recent artists include Kirchner, Munch and Picasso, Pop Artists (Warhol, Hamilton, Johns, Stella) conceptual artists, minimalists, and contemporary artists working in Berlin.
Some of the works on paper are stored in other Berlin collections that have a relevant theme, such as the Ethnological and Asian Art Museums, the Art Library, and the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection. The works in the Kupferstichkabinett cannot be permanently displayed, due to the size of the collection and the air- and light-sensitivity of works on paper; however, the museum holds regular temporary exhibitions.
The Kupferstichkabinett was officially founded in 1831, with a collection of drawings and watercolours acquired by Frederick William I in 1652 at its core. It grew throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with the addition of Medieval, Renaissance and later works, including drawings by Albrecht Dürer and Matthias Grünewald, Sandro Botticelli’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and the estate of Adolph Menzel.
In 1986 the Kupferstichkabinett took over the graphics collection of the National Gallery of Berlin, whose emphasis was on 20th-century prints, including Expressionist works that the Nazis had classified as “degenerate” and confiscated. In 1994 it opened in a new building in the Kulturforum, reuniting the parts of the collection that had been split between East and West Berlin together with the National Gallery’s collection.
The Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) is home to a universe of ‘art on paper,’ with masterpieces by Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Adolph Menzel, and Vincent van Gogh, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Pablo Picasso, and – more recently – Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter. With its wealth of treasures, it is a central place for European artistic ideas, images, and forms of expression, as well as for those of world cultures linked to Europe through cultural and historical ties. It contains works from 1000 years of the history of art, culture, and the media, ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. The museum’s collection comprises a staggering 550,000 prints and some 110,000 drawings, watercolours, pastels, and oil sketches. The Kupferstichkabinett collects European drawings and prints and, more recently, international works of art on paper. The museum also contains illuminated manuscripts (hand-written texts adorned with exquisite miniatures) dating from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, books with original graphic art, special portfolios, sketch books, topographical views and printing plates.
As a museum of the graphic arts, the Kupferstichkabinett is the collection, excellence, and exhibition centre for all draughtsmanship and printmaking, manuscript illumination, and artistic book illustration at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The Kupferstichkabinett is the largest collection of art in the graphic medium in Germany and is one of the four most important museums of its kind worldwide.
For a long time, German drawings of the 19th and 20th centuries were collected in Berlin mainly by the National Gallery, including some 6,000 graphic sheets from Adolph Menzel’s estate. The drawing collection of the National Gallery was affiliated to the Kupferstichkabinett in 1986. After the Second World War, there had been a pre-eminence of the collections of 20th century prints, for example, works of Expressionism, which had been defamed and lost as “degenerate” during the period of National Socialism. In 1994, the new Kupferstichkabinett was opened at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz. Here, the collections of the collection, divided during the German division between East and West, were brought together again together with the collection of the National Gallery.
The main focus of the collection is on European drawings and prints from the Middle Ages to the present. Also represented are manuscripts with medieval and Renaissance bookmaking, portfolios, sketchbooks, topographical representations and printing plates. Drawings and prints of early Italian, German and Dutch artists and works from the 19th century are available in a particularly large number and high quality; They represent artists such as Mantegna and Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, Altdorfer, Grünewald and Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Rembrandt and Tiepolo, Chodowiecki, Caspar David Friedrich, Schinkel and Menzel. Other collections are the Classic Modern (with Munch, Kirchner, Picasso), Pop Art (with Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella), Conceptual Art and Minimal Art Present art attention.
Works on paper are also preserved in other museums in Berlin – in the Ethnological and Asian Museum, in the Art Library and in the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection. Because of the large scale of the collection and the relatively high sensitivity of the individual pieces, the works of the copper engraving cabinet can not be constantly presented. In addition to special exhibitions, a number of temporary exhibitions with works from our own collections are shown each year. In addition, interested parties can have their own choice displayed in a study room.
The artworks of the Kupferstichkabinett are documented, stored and, if necessary, treated according to current state of the art. A Conservation Advisory Council of the museum is an advisory body. For intensive inter-German and international lending, the light- and climate-sensitive drawings and prints must be carefully prepared. This includes special montages, detailed logs and appropriate framing.
Specialized areas for restoration efforts include, among others, the bound medieval and Renaissance handwritings, the large-format design cartoons on 19th-century wall paintings (such as by Peter von Cornelius) or technically complex works of contemporary art. A constantly updated index of watermarks supports research in the field of paper and the dating of works of art on paper. An example of longer-term research projects is the exact study of silver pencil drawings, which has been carried out as an interdisciplinary project together with the Rathgen Research Laboratory (RF), the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) and the Center de Recherche et de Restauration des Musée de France (C2RMF ) is operated. Apart from the Kupferstichkabinett, the RF and the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart (SABK) are involved in the study of individual drawings by Matthias Grünewald.