History of the Collection
The Collection of Prints and Drawings ETH Zurich was established in 1867 at the then-Polytechnikum by Gottfried Kinkel, Professor of Archaeology and Art History. The foundation of its holdings was the purchase of the Bühlmann collection in 1870. The Swiss painter Rudolf Bühlmann (1812-1891) had for more than three decades lived in Rome, where he assembled approximately 11,000 single leaf prints and 150 bound volumes of prints.
The most valuable addition to the collection was the contribution of the Zurich banker Heinrich Schulthess-von Meiss (1813-1898) of more than 12,000 precious prints, ranging from Schongauer to Rembrandt.
The collection has been open to the public since 1891. In April 1924 (thirty years later) the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported that the most important artistic event of the spring season was the opening of the newly-organised ETH prints and drawings collection. At the time the storeroom also functioned as an exhibition space, and the former reading room of the institute's library was transformed, at minimal cost, into a large study room. After World War II this room was converted into an exhibition area. In 1994/1996, after more than seventy years, the rooms were renovated up to present-day conservation and security standards; at the same time the work areas were improved.
Through its continuous acquisition policy and numerous donations over the years the collection has far outgrown its original size. Today it comprises approximately 150,000 prints and drawings (with concentration on prints) from the fifteenth century to the present, making it the largest collection of its kind in Switzerland. Its special focus is Swiss graphic art, the development of which cannot be studied in such detail in any other Swiss collection.
The collection's present acquisition policy ensures the growth of its main areas and the establishment of new ones. Emphasis is on the acquisition of graphic art from the last three decades, of which the works of Dieter Roth, Bernhard Luginbühl, Urs Lüthi, Franz Gertsch and Blinky Palermo have received special attention.
Because of the materials of which they are made, these light- and temperature-sensitive works can only be displayed in short-term exhibitions, or are available for individual inspection in the study room.
Freier Eintritt. Entrance free
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