The Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts (AFGA) is the department responsible for the Fine Arts Museums’ collection of works of art on paper: prints, drawings, and artists’ books. Selections from the collection are exhibited in rotating exhibitions in specially designated galleries at the de Young and the Legion of Honor, while the remainder of the collection is stored in the department’s state-of-the-art facilities at the Legion of Honor, along with the Museums’ collection of photography. Much of the collection is available for viewing at the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Study Center.
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 Moore Achenbach’s death in 1963. When they formed the collection, the Achenbachs intended that it would systematically illustrate 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, curators of the AFGA have worked steadily over the years to realize this goal, filling in gaps and moving the collection forward into the 21st century.
Many of the additional 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-related 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, the AFGA is the largest repository of works of art on paper in the western United States.