The beginnings of today’s comprehensive print collection of around 80,000 items are to be found in the notebooks of the Künstlergesellschaft created between 1794 and 1850, which are known as the “Malerbücher”. The highpoint of the relatively small group of drawings by old masters are the over 650 works by Johann Heinrich Fuseli. Particularly well represented are Swiss landscape drawings, with pieces ranging from Conrad Meyer (1618–1689) through Salomon Gessner’s (1730–1788) idylls, and the atmospheric mountain images of Ludwig Hess (1760–1800) and Caspar Wolf (1735–1785) all the way to studies by Rudolf Koller (1828–1905). The best-known works held in the collection include a book of sketches by Géricault and six watercolours by Cézanne.
Alongside valuable 15th century single-leaf woodcuts the collection's holdings comprise virtually the entire print works of the Swiss Conrad Meyer (1618–1689), Salomon Gessner (1730–1788), Conrad Gessner (1764–1826), Johann Heinrich Lips (1758–1817), Ludwig Hess (1760–1800), Albert Welti, the Dutch artist Herman van Svanevelt (1600–1655), Anthonie Waterloo (1610–1690), Nicholaes Berchem (1620–1683), Allaert van Everdingen (1621–1675), Karel Dujardin (1622–1678), the German artists Johann Elias Ridinger (1698–1767), Christian Wilhelm Dietrich (1712–1774), Franz Edmund Weirotter (1730–1771), Ferdinand Kobell (1740–1799), William Hogarth (1697–1764), Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) and Honoré Daumier (1808–1879).
In the 20th century the central focus is on purchased works, with drawings, prints and collages by Lovis Corinth, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Hans Richter, Hannah Höch, Otto Meyer-Amden, Sophie Täuber-Arp, Louis Soutter, Fritz Glarner, Martin Disler, Enzo Cucchi, Felix Droese and Miriam Cahn. The most important group is formed by drawings from the estate of Ferdinand Hodler, with masterpieces from all the artist’s creative periods. Another centrepiece is the comprehensive collection of works and documents acquired in the eighties and nineties relating to Dada, the movement that began in Zurich and went on to conquer the world. From 1976–1995 the emphasis in terms of purchases was placed on the Zero group, American minimalist and conceptual art, as well as Swiss, German and Italian representatives of figurative expressive art (Ausdruckskunst) of the seventies and eighties. Between 1995 and 1997 these were supplemented by groups of work containing contemporary art by artists from Britain and the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Amongst its prints and drawings the Collection holds the more or less complete works of Marcel Broodthaers, Markus Raetz, Dieter Roth, André Thomkins and Lothar Baumgarten alongside numerous individual pieces and groups of works.