Since 1776, the year which saw the rise of the Accademia, the administrators have collected a substantial set of paintings for educational purposes, which is still part of the institution’s heritage to date.
Giuseppe Bossi, who supervised it from 1802, greatly increased the collection, fully aware of the role that the Accademia was playing with regard to the city. In fact, in this initial phase the Pinacoteca di Brera was nothing more than the Gallery of ancient and modern works inside the Accademia. Following the confiscation of ecclesiastical objects and riches due to the suppression of churches in the Napoleonic era, the number of works continued to increase and religious paintings were put side by side with the collection of Potraits of Painters and the Room of Modern works.
Throughout the nineteenth century the collections continued to grow, fulfilling the three essential activities of the Accademia: education, exhibitions, documentation and safeguarding. The first refers to those “educational furnishings” such as the record of the Pensionato artistico romano. The second is connected to those works that were successful during the Great Competitions, exhibited during recurring exhibitions and the acquisitions of the exhibition fund. The third forges the incentive of numerous donations and some permanent collections of ancient works.
Following the unification of Italy, a royal decree in 1882 allocated the roles of two administratively separate institutions the conservative, exhibition role- to museums, in this case to the art gallery - and the didactic one - to the Accademia. Therefore the painting patrimony was divided.
Currently the painting collection contains 598 works, including 50 old paintings, 100 twentieth century ones, the rest belong to the nineteenth century and include works from the Brera competitions, bequests, legacies and donations made over time to the Accademia (Hayez, Ala Ponzoni, Stampa).
375 paintings are kept on site, 223 are in external deposits, including 96 works in the Gallery of Modern Art in Milan and in an additional 21 locations, including museums as well as in other premises
The paintings have been filed using the Sirbec cataloging system of the Lombardy Region and any restoration work is carried out by the Accademia’s School of Restoration.The paintings are amongst the best examples of 19th century paintings, from Lombardy and elsewhere, and as such are frequently lent out to temporary exhibitions.
The painting collection, accessible to students on request, is also used as an educational support tool for students and is open to the public for special events ( National Trust Spring OpenDays, Culture Week).