The Museum of Modern Art Department of Drawing and Prints

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City has an extensive collection of drawings and prints!

The Department of Drawings and Prints is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting works on paper. 

This includes various mediums like charcoal, pencil, ink, watercolor, pastel, etching, lithography, screenprint, woodcut, and more.

History and Collection Highlights

The Drawings and Prints department was formally established in 1940 when art historian William S. Lieberman was hired as the department’s first curator. 

A few significant acquisitions in the late 1920s and 1930s included late 19th-century French and early 20th-century drawings by Matisse and Picasso.

Today, the collection is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary drawings and prints. 

It contains over 24,000 drawings, 300,000 prints, and 5,800 photographically illustrated books documenting.

Several donors and benefactors have been instrumental in building the collection.

Some of the most generous donations have included:

  • over 500 works from the collection of Louise and Walter Arensberg in the 1950s
  • Surrealist drawings from the bequest of collector Saidie A
  •  May in 1960, and 2,500 midcentury American drawings from the JDR 3rd Fund in 1968

The Prints and Illustrated Books collection has also received several significant boosts. 

Major groups of prints were gifted in the 1940s by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Edith Halpert, and Albert A. 

The 1950s and 1960s saw hundreds of German Expressionist prints donated from the collections of Olga May and Ilse Meyer.

Today’s Drawings and Prints collection has incredible depth across numerous artistic movements and mediums. 

A few highlights include,

  • cast paperworks by Edgar Degas, 
  • vibrant watercolors from Henri Matisse
  • abstraction from Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky
  • Edward Hopper’s preparatory sketches
  • silkscreens by Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol
  • contemporary pieces by Kara Walker, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Cecily Brown, and Sophie Calle. 

Of course, these represent only a small sample of the thousands of works visitors can discover when exploring the galleries.

Exhibition and Research by MoMA Department of Drawing and Prints

There are several galleries under the Department of Drawings and Prints. 

Displays include the museum’s permanent collection as well as special temporary exhibitions. 

Typically, only a very small percentage of the entire collection of drawings and prints is on view to the public at any given time.

Special exhibitions have been devoted to mediums such as Japanese woodblock prints, special books, contemporary photography, works on paper, etc.

Behind the scenes, the Drawings and Prints department is highly active, with the best people cataloging and researching the collection.

Curators detail the exhibition history, correct attributions and publish these works in a catalog.

Conservators work to repair aging paper works and recommend proper environmental conditions for storage and display. 

The department also regularly assists outside researchers interested in closely studying specific pieces within the collection.

At MoMA, the Department of Drawings and Prints is crucial in adding to the museum’s world-class collection of modern art masterpieces on paper.

Featured Image: Moma.org

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