Ranging from preparatory studies and sketches to finished works of art, the nearly twelve thousand drawings in The Morgan Library & Museum's collection span the fourteenth through twenty-first centuries. The primary focus is European drawings executed before 1825, but the Morgan's holdings include a growing number of nineteenth- and twentieth-century works on paper as well as drawings by American artists. In addition to a print collection of British political satires and portraits, about two hundred paintings, sculptures, medieval reliquaries, and ceramics, the Morgan has the largest and most representative collection of Rembrandt etchings in the United States
In 1909 Pierpont Morgan established the core of the Morgan's holdings when he purchased a collection of about fifteen hundred old master drawings from the English artist-collector Charles Fairfax Murray. Its strengths—notably sixteenth- and eighteenth-century Italian drawings and Netherlandish drawings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—remain unsurpassed in the United States. Since the founding of the Morgan as a public institution, the most important factor in the growth of the collection has been the acquisition of individual works and entire collections through gifts and bequests.
Italian drawings comprise nearly three thousand individual sheets as well as drawings in albums and sketchbooks, including works by Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. French drawings are a major strength, with drawings by Claude, Fragonard, and Watteau. Works by Ingres, Delacroix, Degas, Cézanne, and Matisse have strengthened the Morgan's holdings in works by nineteenth- and twentieth-century draftsmen. British drawings comprise more than one thousand individual sheets as well as albums and sketchbooks. Hogarth, Gainsborough, Blake, Turner, Constable, and Burne-Jones are only a few of the distinguished draftsmen represented in the collection. The Morgan's holdings include more than seven hundred works by Netherlandish, Dutch, and Flemish artists, such as Rembrandt, Goltzius, Rubens, and van Dyck. German drawings in the collection include masterpieces by Dürer and Friedrich. American artists represented include Audubon and Benjamin and Raphael Lamar West.