The Collection

In the Collection of Prints and Drawings there are more than eight thousand drawings and some ninety thousand prints giving a panor­amic view of Western European art from the 14th century up to the present day. Similarly to the Collection of Old Master Paintings, the core of this department was provided by the Esterházy collection, which became public property in 1870–71, with three thousand five hundred drawings and more than fifty thousand engravings. It is from the Esterházy collection that the most valuable old Italian, German, French and Netherlandish drawings, i.e. works by Leonardo, Raphael, Dürer, Altdorfer, Wolf Huber, Poussin, and Rembrandt came. Between the foundation of the Museum of Fine Arts and its opening, the continuous enrichment of its drawings and engravings was due on the one hand to Károly Pulszky's purchases abroad, and on the other to the painter István Delhaes, who died in Vienna in 1901 leaving in his will his collection of two thousand six hundred and eighty-three drawings and fourteen thousand four hundred and fifty-three engravings to the Hungarian state. These drawings were a particularly fortunate addition to the Esterházy collection, because, although Delhaes purchased sheets spanning four centuries and representing every school of European art, most of the works in his possession were by 18th and 19th century Austrian and German masters. A first-class set of 19th and early 20th century drawings, mainly French works, entered the museum in 1935 as the gift of Pál Majovszky. As head of the Art Department in the Ministry of Education, Majovszky formed his collection with the intention of subsequently presenting it to the museum. Thanks to him the museum holds masterpieces by the most outstanding 19th century French artists: Delacroix, Daumier, Corot, Courbet, Manet, Degas, Signac, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Rodin; but he also presented the collection some outstanding British, Austrian and German drawings, including works by Gainsborough, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Friedrich, and Menzel. He also acquired some works by the greatest of the Dutch masters, Van Gogh and Jonkind.

Early 20th  century art is represented by drawings, which, though modest in number, are outstanding in quality: works by Picasso, Chagall, Van Doesburg, Sonia Delaunay, Liebermann, Schiele, Klimt, Schwitters, Modigliani, Rodchenko, and Stepanova. In recent decades some two thousand drawings and prints have entered the collection, partly through purchases within Hungary and partly through donation, such as Kahnweiler's and Vasarely's significant gifts. The systematic collection of contemporary works started in the 1960s and continues today with the help of the 20th Century Foundation, which was set up in 1986, and by way of international exchange.

Szilvia Bodnár (ed.), Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, Budapest 2006.