Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

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Founded in 1910, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery has a varied programme of exhibitions and events, a shop and cafe as well as galleries highlighting its art, human history and natural history collections.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Tuesday to Friday - 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday - 10am to 5pm
Closed Sundays and Mondays

Admission charges


The Cottonian collection at Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery is a Designated Collection of national importance.

The Designated Cottonian Collection was bequeathed to the city of Plymouth by William Cotton (1794 -1863) from whom it takes its name, but the collection was largely assembled during the 18th century by Charles Rogers (1711 - 1784). His connoisseurship, combined with an extensive network of contacts in the art world, resulted in a collection of some 20,000 prints, drawings and paintings, regarded by his contemporaries as one of the finest in England. A 30-day sale in 1799 reduced the collection by two thirds but, nevertheless, the collection inherited by Plymouth is of outstanding quality and provides rare insights into the history of printmaking.

The Cottonian Collection gallery features paintings by Reynolds, Kaufmann, Ruysdael, Laroon etc; works on paper by Altdorfer, Watteau, Guercino etc; furniture, figurines and prints.

Permanent galleries showcase items from World Cultures, Ancient Egypt, archaeology, maritime and local history, Natural History and Fine and Decorative Art collections.

Collection details

World Cultures, Social History, Photography, Personalities, Natural Sciences, Maritime, Land Transport, Fine Art, Decorative and Applied Art, Coins and Medals, Archaeology, Weapons and War

Key artists and exhibits

  • Joshua Reynolds - various
  • A Kaufmann - Beauty Yielded Unto Love...
  • E Burne-Jones - Venus Concordia
  • Stanhope Forbes - The Fish Sale
  • Patrick Heron - Rectilinear Reds & Blues
  • Prunella Clough - Waiting
  • Beryl Cook - Lockyer St Tavern
  • J W Waterhouse - The Hamadryad
  • J M W Turner - Kilchurn Castle
  • J M W Turner - Plymouth from Mount Edgcumbe
  • A Landini - Indecision
  • H S Tuke - Taking a Spell
  • J Olsson - The Sound...
  • Newlyn Paintings
  • Camden Town
  • Maritime Paintings
  • Exhibits may not always be out on permanent display. Please contact the Museum to check before paying us a visit if there is something you specifically wish to see.
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

In the Frame: Plymouth's Portraits Revealed

  • 13 December 2014 — 24 December 2015 *on now

Come and see an exhibition that delves more deeply into Plymouth's portrait collection and presents new research into some of the characters that are new or rarely seen. See self-portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, James Northcote and Edward Opie. Come face to face with maritime greats, important local faces and families too.

Suitable for

  • Any age


ARTIST ROOMS: Gerhard Richter

  • 26 September 2015 — 16 January 2016 *on now

Recognised as one of Germany’s most significant living artists, Gerhard Richter consistently identifies himself as a painter. His ongoing investigation into the process of painting started over 50 years ago in 1960.

This exhibition will examine the breadth and depth of his practice and techniques, and will focus on the three broad areas of activity in his work: figurative, constructive and abstract. Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is aiming to involve young people in a range of areas including the development of the exhibition and the production of its marketing and interpretation materials as well as through a programme of public events.


Fiji: Ocean Connections

  • 10 October 2015 — 16 January 2016 *on now

This newly-developed world cultures exhibition will explore the surprising connections between Plymouth and Polynesia. Over a hundred artefacts from the Pacific island of Fiji have travelled to Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery since the late 1800s. This exhibition includes a selection of these barkcloths, weapons, shells and jewellery. It also shares brand new research from a Fijian Art Research Project run by the University of East Anglia. As well as highlighting aspects of island life, 'Fiji: Ocean Connections' shows the complexity and beauty of Western Polynesian art and culture, investigating how oceans connect Plymouth with the Pacific.

Suitable for

  • Any age

The Influence of Italy

  • 24 October 2015 — 30 July 2016 *on now

Taking as its focus the city's newly-acquired sketchbook, which was completed by artist Sir Joshua Reynolds between 1750-52, this display investigates what attracted the young artist to Italy and the lasting influence his tour had on his life and art. Scroll through a digital version of the sketchbook and see what caught Reynolds' eye as he sketched his way across Rome. Discover why Italy's art, history and landscape has had such an enduring influence on centuries of artistic imagination. Featuring works by Wilson, Guardi and Northcote, plus supporting loans from the De Pass Collection at the Royal Cornwall Museum and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, come on a journey to la bella Italia.

Suitable for

  • Any age

War Games

  • 6 February — 18 June 2016

Explore the fascinating relationship between conflict and children's play, with this major touring exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood which gives an insight into the way toys have been influenced by warfare from the 1800s to the present day. With toys and games including Risk, G.I. Joe, classic toy soldiers and action figures, as well as photographs and archive records, 'War Games' represents different sides of conflicts from around the world. As Plymouth marks the 75th anniversary of the Blitz, this thought-provoking exhibition reveals the sometimes surprising links between play and wider attitudes towards warfare, and delves into the secret history of toys as propaganda and espionage.

Suitable for

  • Any age
Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

The Imaginators

The Imaginators are a group of toddlers aged from around 18 months old and upwards, pre-school children, mums, dads, grandparents and carers who meet up on selected Wednesdays throughout the year to explore the Museum and have fun! With a focus on play, exploration and learning, every week is different as we journey around our galleries, objects and paintings.
The children learn to build relationships and try their hand at activities such as painting, singing and making, all the time using their developing skills and their imaginations.
Younger siblings/older babies are welcome too. Sessions run from 10.30-11.30 and are led by one of our Arts Education Officers.

How to obtain

Advance booking is essential so call Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery on 01752 304665 to reserve your place(s).

Wild About Plymouth

Wild About Plymouth is a family-friendly natural history group that is open to anyone in the Plymouth area. It is led by enthusiastic experts from Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth City Council’s Nature Conservation Team and the University of Plymouth, plus other selected partners. We have a range of events on offer between now and summer 2009. See the website for a full calendar of Wild About Plymouth events.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
Drake Circus


Main Website

The Cottonian Collection



01752 304774


01752 304775

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.