The Boijmans Museum, as it was called at the time, was founded in 1849 and owes its existence to a bequest made by the Utrecht lawyer F.J.O. Boijmans. It included a collection of 3,000 prints, including some 120 etchings by Rembrandt. Unfortunately, these etchings were lost when the Schielandhuis building, in which the Boijmans Museum was located at the time, burnt down in 1864. In the years that followed, the insurance settlement was primarily used to supplement the collection of paintings.
Real interest for graphic art did not manifest itself until Mr Haverkorn van Rijsewijk became the museum’s director (1883 1908). He assembled a thorough overview of works by Hague School artists.
The appointment of Dirk Hannema as museum director in 1921 led to significant additions to the collections. In 1923, he managed to acquire Dr A.J. Domela Nieuwenhuis’s collection, encompassing more than 2,600 objects, three-quarters of which were prints. A couple of years later, in 1929, Hubertus Montauban van Swijndregt legated his art collection, including some 850 prints, to the museum.
The acquisition of those collections induced Dr J.C.J. Bierens de Haan to donate large numbers of prints and books every year, starting in the 1930s. His collection was bequeathed to the Lucas van Leyden Foundation upon his death in 1951. That is how the 26,000 prints from this collection found their way to the Boijmans Museum. These prints were a welcome addition to the print gallery collection, not only because of their number, but also particularly because of their excellent quality.
In addition to prints and books, Bierens de Haan left a substantial fortune. This capital is still the financial basis that enables the museum to continue adding to the collection of old prints. Besides old prints, the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum also collects modern graphic work. In total, the complete collection now numbers more than 50,000 prints and that number continues to grow.