Prints and Drawings

The Courtauld is home to one of the most significant collections of works on paper in the UK, with approximately 7,000 drawings and watercolours,  and 26,000 prints ranging from the Renaissance to the present day.

The collection includes outstanding works by artists including Dürer, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Turner and Cézanne, and provides a broad account of all major European schools.

Drawings Highlights

Executed on paper, drawings are highly sensitive to light, and as a result they cannot be on permanent public display at The Courtauld Gallery. However, selections from The Courtauld’s drawings collection are shown regularly in a dedicated space in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery.

Our collection can be viewed by appointment in the Prints & Drawings Study Room.

The Renaissance

The Courtauld’s outstanding collection of Renaissance drawings is one of the finest in Britain, including works from the most famous European artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Albrecht Dürer and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

In the early Renaissance, the medium of drawing increasingly gained importance as an expression of artistic creativity. Drawings not only functioned as workshop material, but also served to explore ideas for paintings and sculptures. For the first time they were also created as finished works of art to be collected.

17th Century

Increased availability of paper, as well as drawing media and tools, enhanced 17th century draughtsmanship, with artists producing works of unprecedented spontaneity and grandeur.

The richness of Baroque drawings is represented in The Courtauld’s collection, with important groups of works by Rubens and Rembrandt, and the Italian artist Guercino.

18th and 19th Centuries

The 18th century Enlightenment brought about progress and innovation, and for this reason it is often considered as the foundation of the modern era. The arts saw a burst of creativity, and drawing was at the forefront of the intellectual and artistic production in Europe.

From Rococo to Neoclassicism and Romanticism, The Courtauld’s collection houses important examples that showcase these developments.  As the 19th century progressed, artists increasingly pushed the boundaries of media and subject matter, laying the groundwork for the innovations of modern art.

British Watercolours

Watercolour painting came to prominence in Britain between 1750 and 1850, during which time it was transformed from a means of recording topography into a highly expressive art form.

Works by all the major artists of this so-called ‘Golden Age’ of British watercolour are admirably represented at The Courtauld. Notable examples include Thomas Girtin’s view of the façade of Peterborough Cathedral, sublime mountainous landscapes by Francis Towne and John Robert Cozens, and a magnificent collection of watercolours spanning the career of J.M.W. Turner.

Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

The core of The Courtauld’s collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist drawings was formed by Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947), and includes important groups by Degas and Cézanne. Both artists explored the possibilities of the drawing medium by integrating colour and line in innovative ways.

Our collection allows the study of drawings by most artists of the period such as Manet, Renoir, Gauguin, van Gogh, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec, giving insight into their individual creative processes most apparent in the private medium of drawing.

20th Century

The Courtauld is home to one of the most important collections of drawings by the avant-garde British artists of the Bloomsbury Group and the Omega workshop, Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. At the beginning of the 20th century, these artists aimed at simplified forms in their designs which served as patterns for objects such as carpets, costumes and screens. 

As the 20th century advanced, pure abstraction became one of the predominant art movements, and is represented at The Courtauld in drawings by Hans HartungWassily Kandinsky and Helen Saunders. 

Prints Highlights

The Courtauld’s print collection ranges from the early years of European printmaking in the 15th century to the present day. Highlights include etchings and engravings by Andrea Mantegna, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Canaletto; a rich array of prints by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, in particular Manet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec; and more recent works by artists including Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud and Grayson Perry.

Executed on paper, drawings and prints are highly sensitive to light, and as a result they cannot be on permanent display. However, selections from The Courtauld’s prints collection are shown regularly in a dedicated space in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery.

The collection can also be viewed by appointment in the Drawings & Prints Study Room.

Contact us: or call +44 (0) 20 3947 7609

Visit the Prints and Drawings Study Room

Due to The Courtauld Gallery’s temporary closure for a major transformation project, the Prints and Drawings Study Room has temporarily been relocated to our Vernon Square campus.

We continue to welcome visitors and encourage the use of the Study Room by university and other higher education groups.

To book an appointment, please email or call +44 (0) 20 3947 7609.

Please allow at least one month’s notice prior to your desired visit. Please note that we are not able to accommodate drop-in visits.

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