The Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville has acquired a set of Pablo Picasso’s etchings from the 1930s considered the artist’s “greatest achievement in the print medium” and a hallmark of 20th-century modernist printmaking, museum Director Sharon Corwin said Friday.

Maine philanthropists and longtime Colby supporters Peter and Paula Lunder donated the 100 etchings, known as the Vollard Suite. The Lunders also donated their collection of American art to the museum in 2013 and have given money to the museum to support expansion.

Colby will show about 65 of the prints beginning June 2. The full suite will be on view in 2018, with loans from other museums to present the collection in the broader context of Picasso as a European modernist with transAtlantic influences.

The Vollard Suite explores themes that occupied Picasso as an artist for years, Corwin said, including mythology, identity, creativity and sexuality. He etched them in a neoclassical style, working out his own identity in the process. “You often see the artist himself in many of these, the self-portraiture and the self-definition that made him such an extraordinary artist,” she said.

Colby’s suite is one of 50 sets printed on extra-large Montval laid paper in 1939. It is believed to be one of eight sets that Picasso signed in full. The set is in pristine condition and has never been publicly exhibited, Corwin said.

A dealer recently offered the etchings to the Lunders, a wealthy Maine family with deep ties to Colby, who purchased them for the museum. A Vollard Suite with a similar provenance as the suite acquired by Colby sold at auction with Sotheby’s for 2.6 million British pounds in 2013, or $3.8 million in U.S. dollars today. It’s not clear if the suite sold at auction in 2013 is the same one that Colby acquired, and Corwin declined to discuss financial details of the gift or sale.

The Lunders’ 2013 gift of American art included nearly 500 works and was valued at $100 million.

“The Lunders’ commitment to Colby and the collection we are building here is so extraordinary,” she said. “They have shown us once again what Maine means to them and what Colby means to them.”

Peter Lunder graduated from Colby in 1956 and worked for his uncle, Harold Alfond, at Dexter Shoe Co. In a brief email Friday afternoon, Paula Lunder declined to comment about the gift.

The Picasso prints add to Colby’s depth in specific American and European artists, including John Marin, James McNeill Whistler, Alex Katz and Bernard Langlais.

The suite is named after Ambroise Vollard, a Paris art dealer and publisher who collected and promoted Picasso’s art, and hired him to illustrate books. Picasso began the etchings in 1930, and produced most of them in 1933 and 1934. He finished the plates in 1937, and Vollard hired a printer to print them in 1939.

Vollard died soon thereafter, and the prints were not published. A decade later, an art dealer named Henri Petiet bought the etchings, and museums began acquiring them. The Colby set comes directly from the Petiet estate, Corwin said.

Among museums with complete collections are the British Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.