print of a gas station in reds, oranges, and blues

Ed Ruscha, Standard Station, 1966. Color screenprint, 25 5/8 x 40 in. Published by Audrey Sabol, Villanova, PA. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Mrs. Paul L. Wattis Fund, 2000.131.5.1 © Ed Ruscha

About the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts

The Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts (AFGA) is the department responsible for works of art on paper: prints, drawings, and artist books. Selections from the collection are exhibited in rotating exhibitions in specially designated galleries at the de Young and Legion of Honor. Much of the collection is available for research and study by appointment in the George and Leanne Roberts Seminar Room. 

The department is named for Moore and Hazel Achenbach, who gave the bulk of their collection to the city of San Francisco in 1948 and the remainder upon Mr. Achenbach’s death in 1963. When they formed the collection, the Achenbachs intended that it would cover the entire development of the graphic arts, from the 15th century to the present day. Through gifts, purchases, and the generous support of additional donors, AFGA curators have worked steadily to realize this goal, filling in gaps and moving the collection forward into the 21st century. Many of these acquisitions form the basis for special collections within the department, such as the Anderson Collection of Graphic Arts, the Reva and David Logan Collection of Artist Illustrated Books, significant holdings of Japanese prints, theater and dance materials, and an important group of Works Project Administration (WPA) prints and drawings allocated by the Federal Art Project. The department is also the repository of a number of archives, including the archive of the Bay Area’s Crown Point Press and the graphic works of the Los Angeles–based artist Ed Ruscha. Today, with more than 90,000 works of art, AFGA is the largest repository of works of art on paper in the western United States.

The department is supported in part by the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council (agac@famsf.org), which offers a variety of programs focusing on the world of works on paper.

  • Crown Point Press Archive

    Acquired in 1991, the archive contains one impression (usually Artist’s Proof 6) from every print edition published by Crown Point Press since its inception in 1962 to the present day, as well as many additional proofs. Press founder and director Kathan Brown promoted etching, a traditional medium, as a flexible printmaking medium that provided a vehicle for new artistic approaches. Working proofs are prints that are printed so that the artist can see changes during a printmaking project. They are often altered by hand, either with notations by the artist or printer, or with drawing in various media. The prints produced at Crown Point are beautifully crafted, visually exciting, and, in many cases, precedent setting. Also included in the archive are unique materials, including artist’s preparatory sketches, notes, working proofs, blocks, and plates. Bay area artists Robert Bechtle, Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud are well represented in the collection, as are John Cage, Chuck Close, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, and Pat Steir. More recently, artists like Julie Mehretu, Chris Ofili and Kiki Smith have printed at the press.

    Diebenkorn print with a number of colors

    Richard Diebenkorn, Green, 1986, color aquatint, spit-bite aquatint, soap-ground aquatint, and drypoint, 53 11/16 x 40 3/4 in. (136.4 x 103.5 cm). Crown Point Press Archive, gift of Crown Point Press, 1991.28.1274. © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

  • Ed Ruscha Archive

    For more than forty years, Ed Ruscha (b. Omaha, Nebraska, 1937) has been an influential figure in postwar American painting and one of contemporary art’s most significant graphic artists. In October 2000 the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco acquired Ruscha’s complete graphic archive: 325 editioned prints and approximately 800 working proofs (color proofs, trial proofs, cancellation proofs). The archive has grown considerably since this initial acquisition, which was funded by the generosity of Mrs. Paul L. Wattis. The Museum continues to acquire an impression of every editioned print, photograph, or other editioned project that Ruscha undertakes.

    Ed Ruscha screenprint in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco collections

    Edward Ruscha, Standard, Amarillo, Texas, from the portfolio Gasoline Stations (detail), 1962 (printed 1989). Gelatin Silver Print, Sheet: 19 1/2 x 23 in (495 x 584 mm); Image: 10 5/16 x 10 7/8 in (262 x 276 mm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Mrs. Paul L. Wattis Fund, 2000.131.158.8

  • Japanese prints

    The AFGA houses one of the largest and finest collections of Japanese prints in the western United States. Numbering over 3,000 works, it concentrates on the great period of ukiyo-e printmaking from the late 18th century through the 19th century. A sizeable number of color woodcuts and woodcut-illustrated books by some of the most recognized ukiyo-e artists—such as Harunobu, Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige—came to the Museums from Carlotta Mabury and Katherine Ball during the early 20th century. Other donations, including considerable works from Moore S. Achenbach’s personal holdings, expanded the collection to include fine examples of the many popular ukiyo-e subjects, from actor prints to landscapes, surimono to shunga. The Japanese print collection also contains a comprehensive overview of Japanese prints from the sōsaku hanga or “creative print” movement dating from the first half of the 20th century, including the work of Kiyoshi Saito, Jun’ichiro Sekino, and Kōshirō Onchi.

    Triptych in the Japanese prints collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

    Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Japanese, 1839–1892). Fujiwara no Yasimasa Playing the Flute by Moonlight (detail), 1883. Color woodcut triptych. Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund. 1982.1.32a-c

  • The Anderson Graphic Arts Collection

    In 1996, the Museums received a gift of more than 650 American prints from Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson and their daughter Mary Patricia Anderson Pence. The Andersons began collecting contemporary American prints in the late 1960s, including from fine art publishing workshops such as Crown Point Press, Gemini G.E.L., and Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE). The Anderson Graphic Arts Collection spans over 50 years of print production, from 1953 to 2007, with outstanding examples of print processes like woodcut, intaglio, lithography, screenprint, and monotype. The Anderson Gallery of Contemporary Graphic Art was unveiled at the Legion of Honor in 1997. The gallery, which features selections from the Anderson Collection in regularly scheduled exhibitions, moved to the de Young museum in 2005. The collection is available to small and mid-size institutions with no rental or participation fees. Please click here for additional information. Learn more about the Anderson Collection on Google Arts and Culture.

    Dots of luminous color surrounding a white center

    Sam Francis, Yunan, State II (detail), 1971. Published by Gemini G.E.L. Color lithograph, 26 x 38 1/2 in. (66 x 97.8 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Anderson Graphic Arts Collection, gift of the Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson Charitable Foundation, 1996.74.119. ©️ Sam Francis Foundation, California / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

  • The Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books

    Over the course of 20 years, Chicago collectors Reva and David Logan assembled one of the most important private collections of modern artist illustrated books, which they gave to the Museums in 1998. The Logans favored French books by School of Paris artists up to 1960 and also collected contemporary books, building a collection made up primarily of modern livres d’artists (collaboratively produced volumes that combine text with original graphic art, executed and printed under the artist’s supervision). Pablo Picasso was a particular favorite, and today the collection contains more than 70 of the artist’s 156 books. The Logans also collected artists’ books from the Russian, German, and Italian avant-garde. Selections from the Logan collection, now consisting of more than 400 books dating from the 19th century to the present, are regularly used in exhibitions in the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Illustrated Books at the Legion of Honor. 

    Woodcut from the Reva David Logan collection

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German, 1880–1938). Umbra Vitae: Nachgelassene Gedichte (detail) by Georg Heym (Munich: Kurt Wolff Verlag, 1924). Book with 47 color woodcuts. Printed by Spamerschen Buchdruckerei, Leipzig, published by Kurt Wolff Verlag, Munich. Gift of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, 1998.40.64.1-47

  • Theater and dance

    Alma de Bretteville Spreckels who, with her husband, Adolph B. Spreckels, built the Legion of Honor, laid the foundation for this collection. Inspired by her friendship with the innovative American dancer Loïe Fuller, Alma Spreckels began collecting dance sculpture and drawings, and designs for opera and ballet productions. Because of her close connections with artistic circles in Paris, Mrs. Spreckels was able to purchase a number of exceptional works, in particular costume and set designs by Russian artists associated with Sergei Diaghilev’s famed Ballets Russes. Several generous gifts have augmented the Spreckels collection. In 1977, San Franciscan collectors Mr. and Mrs. Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky donated 40 theatrical designs by second-generation Russian stage designers. Eighteen large-scale drawings of Anna Pavlova by the American artist Malvina Hoffman were gifted by the Hoffman estate in 1981, and 20 works by the Russian designer Boris Anisfeld were gifted by his daughter, Mrs. Otis Chatfield Taylor, in 1985. Today, the collection is one of the foremost repositories of theatrical design in the country.

    Stage design watercolor in theater and dance collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

    Alexandre Golovine (Russian, 1863–1930). Stage set design for act 1 of the opera Orphée (detail), 1926. Opaque watercolor on panel. Theater and Dance Collection, gift of Mrs. Adolph B. Spreckels. T&D1962.30 

  • WPA prints and drawings

    During the Great Depression, the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided thousands of jobs for otherwise unemployed American artists. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal provided funding for murals at Coit Tower, the Rincon Annex Post Office, Beach Chalet, National Maritime Museum, and the San Francisco Zoo. San Francisco’s print workshop opened in late 1935 under the leadership of Ray Bertrand, one of the Coit Tower muralists who had experience in lithography. The shop paired unemployed commercial printers with local artists and churned out hundreds of limited-edition prints and posters during its eight years of operation. WPA prints were not sold commercially, but were widely shown in schools, libraries, community art centers, public museums, and other tax-supported institutions. The de Young Museum was assigned over 1,000 works on paper from the various WPA art programs, which now reside in the AFGA. These include working sketches for public murals, finished watercolors, lithographs, stencil prints, screenprints, etchings, linocuts, and woodcuts.

    Lithograph in WPA prints and drawings collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

    Anonymous, USA Work Program, WPA Poster (detail), ca. 1935. Color Lithograph, 31 3/8 x 31 11/16 in (797 x 805 mm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Marguerite Archer, 2000.13.2