The Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich is one of the largest collection of prints and drawings in Switzerland. It contains some 160,000 high-quality artworks on paper from the 15th century to the present day. From Albrecht Dürer to Emmanuelle Antille and Louise Bourgeois, from Rembrandt van Rijn via Pablo Picasso to Silvia Bächli, and from Francisco de Goya via Miriam Cahn to Andy Warhol – important national and international names are represented as well as young artists.

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The collection has grown over the decades as a result of continuous purchases and numerous gifts and has become far more than the study collection which was originally intended. Today it continues to grow as it absorbs the latest national and international trends, particularly with regard to contemporary art. In addition to a main area of focus in the field of the old masters, it also includes sizeable groups of works comprising Swiss prints and drawings from the 19th to the 21st century.

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Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Farbproofs zu „Blumendrucke“, 1998, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich

The beginnings

In 2017 the Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich was celebrating its 150th anniversary. It was founded as a typical university collection twelve years after the inauguration of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in 1855 (known today as the ETH Zürich). Gottfried Kinkel (1815‒1882), Professor of Archaeology and History of Art, was charged with the task of building up a collection for study and teaching purposes.

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Initially it served aspiring art historians, archaeologists and architects primarily as observation material. The basis of the collection acquired by Gottfried Kinkel in 1870 consisted of approximately 11,000 single sheets and some 150 bound engravings from the collection of the Swiss artist Rudolf Bühlmann (1812-1891), who had lived in Rome for over thirty years.

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The collection owes its most valuable addition to the Zurich banker Heinrich Schulthess-von Meiss (1813‒1898). In 1894 he donated over 12,000 highly valuable sheets from Schongauer to Goya to the Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich. Schulthess-von Meiss’s donation demonstrates that close relationships with collectors have always been of central importance to the ETH’s Collection of Prints and Drawings.

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Even before Schulthess-von Meiss, his cousin, the town councillor Johann Heinrich Landolt, had left it 9,000 graphic works by old masters. The collection continues to enjoy the trust of patrons, as has been reflected in various legacies, donations and donations/purchases.

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Francisco José Goya y Lucientes, Wendigkeit und Waghalsigkeit des Juanito Apiñani in der Arena von Madrid, 1816, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich
Francisco José Goya y Lucientes, Bis zu seinem Urahn, Blatt 39 der Folge „Los Caprichos“, 1799, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich
Rembrandt van Rijan, Landschaft mit drei Bäumen, 1643, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich


At first the Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich was only open to visitors from the academic world. From 1891 it was also made accessible to the general public by showing three to five exhibitions every year based on its extensive stocks. It has always been located in the main building of the ETH Zürich, which underlines its importance.

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Since 1924 the collection of prints and drawings has been housed in its present premises in the South-West Wing of the building designed by Gottfried Semper. Before the collection was installed there the historic rooms were renovated by the architect Gustav Gull.

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Felix Vallotton, Le Ménsonge, 1897, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich

Fragile works on paper

The collection of prints and drawings is not on permanent view because of the nature of the materials of which it is comprised. Some parts of the light- and temperature-sensitive works are presented to the general public in four to five temporary exhibitions per year, with further explanations in catalogues and through an educational programme. Interested persons may examine and study works from the collection in the Study Room by prior appointment. Part of the stocks can also be viewed on the internet in the Collection Online. The Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich also has available a wide-ranging specialised reference library.

The Directors of the Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich

1867 – 1882 Prof. Dr. Gottfried Kinkel
1890 – 1922 Prof. Dr. Carl Brun
 1923 – 1947 Prof. Dr. Rudolf Bernoulli
 1947 – 1978 Prof. Dr. Erwin Gradmann
1978 – 1982 Lic. phil. Leo Zihler
 1983 – 1991 Prof. Dr. Reinhold Hohl
 1992 – 2016 Lic. phil. Paul Tanner
 since 2016 Dr Linda Schädler