The Collectors - The Founders of the Museum

The great diversity of artworks in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen came about thanks to the generosity of collectors.

It began with Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans, and private donors have been of inestimable value to the museum ever since. Daniel George van Beuningen’s contribution to the collection was so important that his name was added to Boijmans’s in 1958. To date, some 1,650 collectors have added to the collection. Some of the most important donations are discussed here.

F.J.O. Boijmans (1767-1847)

Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans was the founder of the museum and gave it his name. Initially his private collection consisted chiefly of paintings by 17th-century Dutch artists. When he ran into financial difficulties, he tried to sell his collection to the Koninklijk Museum (now the Rijksmuseum), without success.

When Boijmans got back on his feet he continued his passionate collecting. To his collection of 17th-century Dutch artists he added paintings by old masters and contemporaries, drawings, prints and porcelain. On 16 June 1847 he gave his collection to the City of Rotterdam with the intention of founding a museum. Eight days later he died. In his will he indicated that he wanted to be named as founder of the museum. Two years later, the museum ‘founded by Mr F.J.O. Boymans’ opened to the public in the Schielandshuis.

Only 127 paintings from the original 1,200 in Boijmans’s collection remain in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. After the first inventory, conducted by A. and A.J. Lamme, some were disposed of as they were of insufficient quality. Others were lost in a devastating fire in the Schielandshuis in 1864. Among the highlights from the collection that have survived are the anonymous ‘St John Writing the Gospel’, the self-portrait of Carel Fabritius and Jan Steen’s ‘Feast of St Nicholas’.

Hendricus Johan Antonius Baur, Portrait of Arnoudina Elisabeth van Westreenen, wife of Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans, 1788, pastel, purchase 1910
Hendricus Johan Antonius Baur, Portrait of Arnoudina Elisabeth van Westreenen, wife of Frans Jacob Otto Boijmans, 1788, pastel, purchase 1910
Hendricus Johan Antonius Baur, Portrait of the museum's founder Frans Boijmans, 1788, pastel, purchase 1910
Hendricus Johan Antonius Baur, Portrait of the museum's founder Frans Boijmans, 1788, pastel, purchase 1910

A selection from the collection of F.J.O. Boijmans

E. van Rijckevorsel (1845-1928)

Elie van Rijckevorsel was a physicist, world traveller and collector. He began by donating his glass and porcelain collection to Museum Boymans anonymously in 1910 and 1935. The museum’s entire collection of arts and crafts had been destroyed in the Schielandshuis fire in 1864. Van Rijckevorsel’s gifts made it possible to re-establish a collection in this field. The identity of the mysterious patron did not become common knowledge until Van Rijckevorsel’s death in 1928, when he left a sizeable collection of glassware, Delftware and Oriental porcelain to the museum.

He gave his collection of ethnographic artefacts to the City of Rotterdam to establish a new museum for geography and ethnology (now the Wereldmuseum). He also set up the Erasmus Foundation to promote science, art and education. Today this foundation is an important stimulus in Rotterdam’s cultural life.

A.J. Domela Nieuwenhuis (1850-1935)

Adrianus Jacobus Domela Nieuwenhuis assembled a collection of prints in which he aimed to create an overview of the developments in European art from the early Renaissance onwards. His primary interest was prints, but his collection also included drawings, sculpture and arts and crafts.

Domela Nieuwenhuis lived in Germany and was forced to part with his collection in the aftermath of the First World War. Dirk Hannema, director of Museum Boymans between 1921 and 1945, acquired it. As compensation the museum paid Domela Nieuwenhuis an annuity, arranged housing for him and his wife, covered the expenses of the move to Rotterdam and gave him a permanent workplace in the museum. A special room was designed for the collection of prints.

A selection from the collection of A.J. Domela Nieuwenhuis

J.P. van der Schilden (1851-1925)

Johannes Pieter van der Schilden trained as a furniture maker and started a business specializing in neo-styles. He was also an eclectic collector. His purchases ranged from old masters to contemporary artists and all kinds of decorative art. He was particularly fond of the artists of the Hague School and his collection of silver.

He became involved with Museum Boymans at an early stage. He was a member of the Museum Boymans Committee and also acted as its treasurer. Van der Schilden frequently loaned works to the museum and occasionally made a gift. On his seventieth birthday in 1921, for example, he gave the museum his collections of Delftware and Chinese and Japanese pottery. In his will he named the City of Rotterdam as his sole beneficiary ‘for the benefit of Museum Boymans’.

J.C.J. Bierens de Haan (1867-1951)

A surgeon, Johan Catharinus Justus Bierens de Haan was sent by the Dutch Red Cross to devastated war zones. In his spare time he travelled through many centuries, including Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Japan and Turkey.

At home he began to amass a collection of prints. When he retired from medicine, he concentrated wholly on his collection and became a highly respected print expert. On his death he left his collection to Museum Boymans. He also bequeathed a sum of money, the annual interest from which funds additions to the print collection. This fund is called the Stichting Lucas van Leyden.

A selection from the collection of J.C.J Bierens de Haan

W. van der Vorm (1873-1957)

The successful Rotterdam businessman Willem van der Vorm collected widely and in quantity. His first purchases were mainly works of the Barbizon and Hague schools, but as time went by he also bought paintings by Dutch and Flemish old masters and French Impressionists.

Director Dirk Hannema suggested to Van der Vorm that he might acquire various masterpieces for the museum with Van der Vorm’s financial support. Among the purchases were ‘The men at Emmaus’ by Han van Meegeren (it was originally thought that it was a painting by Johannes Vermeer), ‘A Grey Horse in a Landscape’ by Albert Cuyp and Rembrandt’s ‘The Man with the Red Cap’.

In 1939 Van der Vorm was closely involved with the founding of the Stichting Museum Boymans - a private initiative that ensured that collectors could gift their works to the foundation and not to Rotterdam City Council. He placed his own collection in the Stichting Willem van der Vorm.

Van der Vorm’s house, where he exhibited his collection, was open to the public. Rembrandt’s ‘Portrait of Aletta Adriaensdochter’ and ‘by Charles-François Daubigny were two of the masterpieces on view. When the building had to make way for the construction of a new metro line in 1972, the collection was transferred to Museum Boymans on long-term loan. It has been on permanent display in its entirety ever since.

Karel van Veen, Portrait of Willem van der Vorm, 1944, oil on panel, loan: Stichting Willem van der Vorm 1972
Karel van Veen, Portrait of Willem van der Vorm, 1944, oil on panel, loan: Stichting Willem van der Vorm 1972
Frédérique Boumeester-van der Vorm, Bust of Willem van der Vorm, 1996, bronze, loan: Stichting Willem van der Vorm 1996
Frédérique Boumeester-van der Vorm, Bust of Willem van der Vorm, 1996, bronze, loan: Stichting Willem van der Vorm 1996

A selection from the collection of W. van der Vorm

D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955)

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen gets the second part of its name from Daniël George van Beuningen. His house was hung full with his favourite artworks, which were integrated into his everyday life. Every inch of wall space was covered with paintings. Pieter Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ hung above a stove on which, according to his granddaughter, he regularly fried eggs and bacon.

 

Van Beuningen's livingroom in his house in Vierhouten, 1958, photo: A. Frequin
Van Beuningen's livingroom in his house in Vierhouten, 1958, photo: A. Frequin

Van Beuningen received advice on his art purchases from Museum Boymans director Dirk Hannema and art dealer Jacques Goudstikker. He had broad tastes and was just as likely to by a painting by Titian as he was to purchase a landscape by Monet. His great passion, however, was early Netherlandish painting. The crowning glory in his collection was ‘The Three Marys at the Tomb’ by Jan van Eyck, which he purchased in 1940 for a fortune from an English collection. It was flown to Rotterdam in a private plane five days before the city was bombed.

During his life, Van Beuningen gifted numerous works of art to the museum, including the famous Achilles series by Peter Paul Rubens. He died on 19 May 1955. Three years later Rotterdam City Council purchased the lion’s share of his collection for the Museum Boymans. To mark this important acquisition, his name was added to that of the museum.

Van Beuningen next to the 'Tower of Babel', during an exhibition of his collection in Paris, 1952, photo: Paris Match
Van Beuningen next to the 'Tower of Babel', during an exhibition of his collection in Paris, 1952, photo: Paris Match
The interior of Van Beuningen's house in Vierhouten, 1958, photo: A. Frequin
The interior of Van Beuningen's house in Vierhouten, 1958, photo: A. Frequin

A selection from the collection of D.G. van Beuningen

W. van Rede (1880-1953)

Willem van Rede did not leave an awe-inspiring collection to the museum, but he did bequeath capital to establish the Willem van Rede Fund. This fund is used to make important purchases of foreign modern art to this day. Even though Van Rede indicated that the money had to be spent primarily on contemporary French art, various monitoring committees have interpreted this instruction elastically. Works like Oskar Kokoschka’s ‘Double Portrait’ and ‘Le Couple’ by Pablo Picasso have also been added to the collection thanks to the Willem van Rede Fund.

A selection from the acquisitions of the Willem van Rede Fund

F.W. Koenigs (1881-1941)

In amassing his collection of drawings, Franz Wilhelm Koenigs had a similar ambition to Bierens de Haan with his print collection: he strove to create an overview of the development of drawing in Europe. His collection is of the highest quality and contains works by almost all the great masters from all schools from the late Middle Ages to the French Impressionists.

A successful businessman, Koenigs was born into a Protestant family in Cologne and moved to Haarlem in 1922. From that moment, collecting drawings became his true passion. In the 1920s he assembled a collection of more than two thousand drawings. He also collected paintings, but on a smaller scale. In 1935 he gave his drawing collection – including loose drawings, albums and illuminated incunabula – along with several paintings on long-term loan to Museum Boymans.

Four years later it transpired that Koenigs had given the collection to a bank in Amsterdam as surety against a substantial loan. In April 1940, D.G. van Beuningen purchased the entire collection and gifted the majority of the works to the Museum Boymans Foundation. Koenigs was so delighted that his collection could remain intact in Rotterdam that he also gifted two drawings by Vittore Carpaccio.

Van Beuningen felt obliged to sell one fifth of the drawings to the German occupiers, with the result that the museum lost some five hundred drawings. After the war, 177 drawings were recovered and reunited with the Koenigs Collection in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen as a loan from the State. The Netherlands lays claim to another 308 missing drawings that are in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. For more information see the Koenigs Collection.

A selection from the collection of F.W. Koenigs

J.W. Frederiks (1889-1962)

Johan Willem Frederiks worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Trade and in his spare time was a passionate collector of old arts and crafts, from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. He later widened the scope of his collection to include Renaissance bronzes and 15th- and 16th-century paintings. Like Bierens de Haan, Frederiks became an expert in his sphere of collecting alongside his daily activities.

Frederiks published on his collection and loaned items from it for exhibitions. When he sold parts of his collection to museums, Museum Boymans also benefited, for example with the purchase of his collection of ornamental pewter. After his death his daughter gave important parts of the collection on loan to the museum; these were later converted into a gift.

J.S.C. Schoufour (1927-2014)

Jacques Simon Cornelis Schoufour’s interest in wooden statues stemmed from his youth. As a child he showed great interest in wood and tried to carve little figures with a knife. It was only years later that his interest was caught by wood from the Middle Ages. In the 1970s he and his wife began putting together a splendid collection, which finally totalled more than sixty items.

Schoufour was particularly interested in sculpture from the Late Gothic period, from 1350 to 1550. Originally these figures were almost always polychromed – painted in bright colours and often gilded; it was figures like this that Schoufour sought out. He and his wife arranged to gift the collection to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. It is now part of a small, attractive collection of medieval wood and stone sculptures.

H. Nefkens (1954)

In 1999 Han Nefkens decided to invest in contemporary art. He started a collection, which he transferred to a variety of museums on long-term loan, and set up a number of foundations under the title H+F, a reference to his own forename and that of his life partner Felipe. The H+F Mecenaat existed between 2005 and 2010 and was a joint venture between Nefkens and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Its objective was to promote the development of contemporary art at an international level by encouraging artists and presenting their work to a new public.

Supported by Many Hands

Private patrons and collectors are still the bedrock of the museum’s collection acquisitions and activities. Thanks to the support of private individuals, businesses, funds and central government, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is able to stage innovative exhibitions, conduct ground-breaking art-historical research, carry out essential restoration work and create informative, educational projects. One recent contribution was ‘Abundantia’, an unusual painting loaned by the Ger Eenens Collection in 2011. The museum has also acquired ‘Le miroir vivant’ by René Magritte, a purchase made possible by contributions from many sources.

More information about opportunities to support the museum or make gifts of art can be found on the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen website.