The Städel owns 2,700 paintings (of which 600 are displayed) and a graphical collection of 100,000 drawings and prints as well as 600 sculptures. It has around 4,000 m² of display and a library of 100,000 books and 400 periodicals.
The Städel was founded in 1818 by the Frankfurt banker and merchant Johann Friedrich Städel. In 1878, a new building, designed according to the Gründerzeit style, was erected on Schaumainkai street, presently the major museum district. In 1937, 77 paintings and 700 prints were confiscated from the museum when they were declared to be "degenerate art" by the National Socialists. In 1939, the collection was moved out of Frankfurt to protect it from damage in World War II. The gallery was substantially damaged by air raids in World War II and it was rebuilt by 1966 according to a design by the Frankfurt architect Johannes Krahn. An expansion building for the display of 20th-century work and special exhibits was erected in 1990, designed by Gustav Peichl. Small structural changes and renovations took place from 1997 to 1999.
The Städel has European paintings from seven centuries, beginning with the early 14th century, moving into Late Gothic, the Renaissance, Baroque, and into the 19th and 20th centuries. The large collection of prints and drawings is not on permanent display and occupies the first floor of the museum. Works on paper not on display can be viewed by appointment.
The gallery has a conservation department that performs conservation and restoration work on the collection.
The museum also features works by the 20th-century German artist Max Beckmann.