The extraordinary quality and range of Western drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art place it among the top institutional collections in the United States. The collection was formed by substantial purchases in the 1920s, several notable gifts by generous donors, and decades of development by curators.

The nearly 4,000 sheets in the collection are divided almost evenly between European and American schools, with about 600 by artists working in 20th-century Cleveland. Strengths of the holdings consist of key works by Italian artists of the 15th through 17th centuries, including Michelangelo and Raphael; Dutch artists of the 17th century, including Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens; French artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, including François Boucher and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; and 19th-century American watercolors by a range of practitioners. The modern era is well represented with works by Georges Braque, John Marin, Egon Schiele, and others, and a small but growing collection of contemporary drawings. A highlight of the collection is a group of extraordinary pastels by artists who excelled in the medium, including Jean-Etienne Liotard, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, and Odilon Redon.