The British Museum has one of the world’s greatest works on paper collections, consisting of around 50,000 drawings and over two million prints, which chart the development of the Western graphic arts from the early 1400s to the present. Dutch and Flemish works occupy an important part of this collection with over 50,000 prints and 5,000 drawings. This includes outstanding holdings of some of the greatest graphic artists: Lucas van Leyden, Hendrick Goltzius, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, and Anthony van Dyck. In addition to these aesthetic highpoints, there are collections of historical, satirical and topographical prints, as well as printed ephemera such as broadsides and playing cards. The Museum first opened to the public in 1759 with the founding collection of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), among which were books of prints and albums of drawings (including an album of drawings by Albrecht Dürer). The collection was assembled over the past 250 years from private collections, gifts, bequests and purchases. The bequest by the Reverend Clayton Mourdaunt Cracherode (1730-1799) brought his superb collection of prints by Rembrandt to the Museum in 1799. In 1836, the Museum acquired the collection of Dutch and Flemish prints and drawings formed by John Sheepshanks (1787-1863), which included an important group of prints by Hercules Segers. In 1895, Rembrandt’s unparalleled, late brush drawing of the Sleeping Woman (Hendrickje Stoffels?) came to the Museum as part of John Malcolm of Poltaloch’s celebrated collection of Renaissance drawings. The Department of Prints and Drawings was established in the Museum in 1808, and the collection is available to visitors in the study room by appointment. The collection is fully catalogued and can be viewed online via the website.
Dr. Olenka Horbatsch, Curator Dutch and Flemish collection, Department of Prints and Drawings (May 2021)
Catalogue of Drawings by Rembrandt and his School in the British Museum
Online research catalogue by Martin Royalton-Kisch (British Museum) 2009
Related CODART publications
An Van Camp, “Metalpoint Drawings from the Low Countries”, CODARTfeatures, June 2015.