Department of Prints and Drawings

Paul Klee, Mondaufgang (St. Germain), 1915

Paul Klee
Mondaufgang (St. Germain), 1915

The Department of Prints and Drawings offers a broad spectrum of art on paper: it includes prints in a wide variety of techniques as well as drawings, watercolours and artists' books. The focus is on works from the early 20th century, especially Expressionism, as well as international graphic art from the 1960s onwards. The collection is constantly being expanded through new acquisitions. Even though works on paper cannot be presented permanently for conservation reasons, works from the Department of Prints and Drawings are an integral part of the collection presentation New Worlds. In addition, selected holdings are presented in special exhibitions. In individual cases, works from the Department of Prints and Drawings are also available for exhibition projects in other museums.



Since the museum was founded, drawings, watercolours and prints have been collected in parallel with works of painting. Thus, in the early 20th century, Karl Ernst Osthaus, the founder of the Museum Folkwang, acquired not only paintings by Vincent van Gogh but also some drawings by the artist, which still belong to the Department of Prints and Drawings today. In the years that followed, Osthaus devoted himself with great passion to contemporary art, including Expressionism, and here too he was interested not only in paintings and sculptures but also in drawings and prints. When the collection Osthaus founded in Hagen came to Essen in 1922, it was united with the collection of the Essen Art Museum, which its director Ernst Gosebruch had assembled. Gosebruch, who was also interested in works on paper, continued his collecting activities as director of the Museum Folkwang in Essen until 1933, and the museum soon had one of the most important contemporary collections of drawings and prints in Germany. This development came to an abrupt end in 1937, when the National Socialists combed through the German museums in search of supposedly "degenerate" art. Almost 1300 works on paper fall victim to the confiscation in Essen, most of the works are subsequently sold on, some unsaleable ones destroyed.
In the decades following the Second World War, an important focus of the Museum Folkwang's activities is to compensate for the losses suffered by acquiring new works of classical modern art. In the course of time, individual sections of the Department of Prints and Drawings will be expanded in a way that surpasses the pre-war holdings in number and quality. This applies above all to the collection of works of Expressionism, especially the Brücke. In addition, contemporary drawing and graphic art is not neglected: important examples of Pablo Picasso's prints are acquired shortly after their creation, as are several graphic series by Andy Warhol in the novel medium of silkscreen printing. But works by Eastern European artists also enter the collection, often in connection with special exhibitions.
Today, new acquisitions in the Department of Prints and Drawings are primarily aimed at three areas: In addition to supplementing the holdings with selected works of classical modernism and important works from the second half of the 20th century, special attention is paid to contemporary drawings and prints. Even in the digital age, these traditional genres have lost none of their relevance for many artists.


The Department of Prints and Drawings comprises around 12,000 works from the late 18th century to the present. The 19th century holdings are dominated by works by Ludwig Richter and Adolph Menzel. Classical Modernism is represented by important collections by the Brücke artists Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. There are also numerous works by Edvard Munch, Christian Rohlfs and Marc Chagall. From the more recent graphic art from 1960 onwards, the large groups of works by Pablo Picasso, Jim Dine, Horst Janssen and Bernard Schultze are particularly noteworthy.


Originals may be presented on Thursdays from 10.00 to 16.00 by prior appointment in the Study and Reading Room.
Registration at the Visitors' Office: T +49 201 8845 444,


Image enquiries via


Curator: Dr. Tobias Burg
T +49 201 8845 105
F +49 201 8845 001