Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
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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.
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Calling all culture vultures, heritage hunters, curious kids, cash-strapped carers, searching students, restless retirees and anybody with even a passing interest in who we are and what we do.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Tuesdays - Fridays 10.00-17.30
Saturdays & Bank Holiday Mondays 10.00-17.00

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

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.

Peter Randall-Page: New Sculpture and Works on Paper

  • 1 February — 10 May 2014 *on now

See a special joint exhibition between Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University and Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery that celebrates the work of internationally recognised artist and sculptor, Peter Randall-Page. Presented as one show displayed across the two city centre venues, ‘New Sculpture and Works on Paper’ is Peter’s first major exhibition in the region for twenty five years. From 1 February to 29 March, visitors can view five new large-scale sculptures, beautifully carved from Rosso Luana marble, in the gallery at Peninsula Arts. Peter has applied a geometric pattern to the surface of the marble, introducing a cloud-like and poetic quality that contrasts with the structure of the forms themselves. From 1 February to 10 May, a series of new large-scale ink drawings can also be seen at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. The drawings investigate mirror image symmetry, branching and root patterns and express the relationship between fluidity and control. In both cases, all the new works reveal Peter’s continued drive to question and explore the human condition and how the world impacts on our emotions, as well as the connections between form and our experience and understanding of the world around us.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Admission free


Laura Knight Portraits

  • 1 March — 10 May 2014 *on now

Dame Laura Knight (1877 –1970) was one of the most popular and pioneering British artists of the 20th century. Her artistic career took her from Cornwall to Baltimore and from the circus to the Nuremberg Trials. Knight used portraiture to capture contemporary life and culture, and her paintings are remarkable for their diverse range of subjects and settings. This exhibition of portraits will reveal Knight’s highly distinctive and vivid work, and also illustrate her success in gaining greater professional recognition for women in the arts

Suitable for

  • Any age
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

The Atrium Gallery

  • 23 April 2014 *on now

Fancy spending your lunchtime taking a bite-sized look at our collections and changing exhibitions? Then join us at 1pm for a 30-minute tour. Dates: The Atrium Gallery – 26 February; Laura Knight Portraits: Newlyn, Baltimore, Friends and War – 26 March; Laura Knight Portraits: Circus, Gypsies, Theatre and Ballet – 9 April; Plymouth Porcelain and A New Collection for Plymouth – 23 April

Suitable for

  • Any age


Admission is free but places are limited. Please collect a ticket from our Welcome Desk or contact us and we will post or put one aside for you

black and white photograph of infantry with kit

Museums at Night 2014: The Echoes of War

  • 16 May 2014 6-9pm

Come to this commemorative WWI-themed event to mark the international Museums at Night 2014 featuring documents and images from the City archives, activities for children and dance demonstrations from the 1914-18 era. The Museum shop and cafe will be open. You can also look around the 'Plymouth's Great War: Three Towns United in Conflict' exhibition. A full timetable for the evening will be available online nearer the time. Admission is free and there is no need to book in advance. Come along for as little or as long as you like

Suitable for

  • Any age
  • Family friendly


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.