Dr J.C.J. Bierens de Haan started collecting when he was still young. In the beginning, his interest centred on contemporary artist such as Marius Bauer, Willem Witsen, James Ensor, Francis Seymour Haden, James McNeill Whistler and Käthe Kollwitz.
After he retired from his medical practice in 1925, he devoted himself to building a print collection. As a consequence of the economic crisis and other factors, there was an unprecedented number of prints for sale at relatively low prices in the years between 1920 and 1940. A true connoisseur of graphic art, his interest for work that was less in demand and his feeling for quality were the foundations on which Bierens de Haan built a unique collection of 26,000 prints. All of the prints were purchased in the period 1925 1940. The eleven auctions in Leipzig, at which the collections of Friedrich August II, Elector of Saxony, were brought under the hammer, gave him an important opportunity to add first rate works to his collection.
Dr Bierens de Haan died 1951. He legated his collection of prints, books, Asian artefacts and half his fortune to the city of Rotterdam. The local authorities entrusted the items to the Lucas van Leyden Foundation that Bierens de Haan had set up. In turn, the foundation allowed the Boijmans Museum to take the collection into custody.