The Fine Art collection comprises 1293 paintings,193 sculptures, around 20,000 works on paper including watercolours, drawings, artists' sketchbooks, albums, photographs, prints and miniatures, and 15 videos.

The collection spans Northern and Italian Renaissance painting, Baroque to modern French art, and British painting from the 17th century to the present day. It tells the story of art in Bristol and internationally and reflects the social and architectural history of the city and the changing landscape.

There are many key examples from the history of western art such as paintings by Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach the Elder and Giovanni Bellini and an altarpiece by Antonio da Solario. British portraiture ranges from early examples by Robert Peake and William Larkin to Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Rossetti. Landscape is represented by early Dutch pioneers such as Jacob van Ruisdael and Jan van der Heyden and, in Britain, Richard Wilson, Constable and Francis Danby. Dutch genre painting can be seen in the work of Slingeland and the Master of the Processions, and its enduring influence in the 19th century paintings of the Bristol School artists, Edward Bird, Edward Villiers Rippingille and their followers Rolinda Sharples and Samuel Colman. French art includes the 18th century classicists Le Brun and Rendu, the realism of Courbet and Boudin and the avant-garde experiments of Seurat and Vuillard. The symbolists Redon and Moreau link with the British-based Alma Tadema. The collection also features Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Burne-Jones and Arthur Hughes and followers such as Sir Frank Dicksee. Modernism in Britain is represented by a range of artists from David Bomberg and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska to Barbara Hepworth, Victor Pasmore and Richard Smith.

Recent collecting has expanded to include contemporary artists from around the world, from Ai Weiwei in China to Emily Jacir in Palestine, Shilpa Gupta in India and Yto Barrada in Morocco.

image: Tulips, by Duncan Grant, oil on canvas, 1930 [K1560]