Göttingen University's Collection of Paintings dates back to the year 1795: in his last will, Johann Wilhelm Zschorn (1714–1795), Higher Appeal Court Secretary in Celle, bequeathed the university more than 270 paintings, which were transported to Göttingen in 1796 on three horse-drawn carriages. A condition of the legacy was that the works must be carefully preserved, publicly exhibited and put to use in support of academic education – although at that time, Art History had not yet come into existence as an academic subject. The collection of artworks was intended "for the development of taste, accustoming the eye and the senses to that which is good and beautiful (...) Our age demands besides bread-and-butter degree studies also some culture" (Göttingische Anzeigen, 1796).
As early as 1805, Johann Dominik Fiorillo (1748–1821), the collection's first curator, published a printed catalogue, but it was not until 1926 that the collection was first documented for academic purposes by Wolfgang Stechow (1896–1974). Donations by Professors Julius Baum (1882), Karl Ewald Hasse (1902) and Wilhelm Dilthey (1907) enlarged the collection considerably, particularly in the area of Italian painting.
The Collection of Paintings is rich in works by masters such as Lippo Vanni (c. 1315–after 1375), Francesco Botticini (c. 1446– 1497), David Teniers the Elder (1582–1649), Jan Steen (c. 1626– 1679), Jan van Goyen (1596–1656), Jan Victors (1619–1679), Salomon van Ruysdael (1602–1670), and Joos de Momper (1564–1635). But Göttingen University also possesses modern period works, among them paintings by Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907) and Max Pechstein (1881–1955). After several changes of location – from the apartment that housed the first curator, via the Royal Academic Museum, to the Accouchierhaus, and then to Theaterplatz – in 1987 the Collection of Paintings was eventually accommodated in the Altes Auditorium. Following a major refurbishment, it has been on view, also to the public, in modernised exhibition rooms since 2011.