The Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection of over 18,000 drawings encompasses works by draughtsmen of all major European Schools from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century, as well as groups of Japanese and Chinese drawings and a fine collection of Indian miniature paintings.
Artists of the Italian, French, Dutch and Flemish schools are strongly represented and the collection includes superb drawings by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Ingres, Degas and Picasso.
Notable among the Museum’s holdings of drawings by British artists – numerically the most significant part of the collection – are remarkable groups of sketches and studies by George Romney (given by the artist’s son in 1818), William Blake and Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
The Fitzwilliam’s collection of watercolours is rightly celebrated, and reflects the range and expressive potential of this most versatile of art forms. It includes a magnificent range of British and American landscape watercolours by such artists as J.R. Cozens, Palmer, Sargent, Whistler and Paul Nash, and a superb group of over fifty works by J.M.W. Turner, almost half of which were given in 1861 by the artist’s most fervent champion and critic, John Ruskin.
The majority of the Indian and Persian paintings came from the collection of Percival Chater Manuk (1873–1946), a high court judge in Patna and pioneer collector of Indian paintings. Particular areas of strength are early Mughal paintings, drawings of the Isfahan school of the first half of the seventeenth century and works of the Pahari and Company schools of painting.
Works on paper are fragile and damaged by continual exposure to light. The department has an active policy of organising regularly changing exhibitions and displays from the collection throughout the year, supported by a related series of online resources. Visitors can access works not on display by appointment in the Graham Robertson Study Room.