In 1891, Domela Nieuwenhuis started building a graphic art collection together with the art dealer and auctioneer Hugo Helbing, He aimed at bringing together a universal collection that would reflect the developments in Western art since the Renaissance. He focused his attention principally on famous artists and well known works. For instance, he owned works from Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden, Marcantonio Raimondi, Hendrick Goltzius, Rembrandt, Jacques Callot, Jean Baptiste Millet, Félicien Rops, James McNeill Whistler, Seymour Haden and Max Klinger.
In addition to prints, Domela Nieuwenhuis also collected drawings. A considerable number of prints date back to the German romantic movement, mainly represented by Joseph Anton Koch and the Nazarenes. By far the most important of his acquisitions were four water colours by Koch, drafts for a cycle of frescoes in the Casino Massimo in Rome on the subject of Dante’s Divina Commedia. Some arts and crafts pieces and a few sculptures were also part of the collection.