The museum owes its name to two private collectors. Frans Jacob Boijmans, a lawyer from Utrecht, donated his art collection to the municipality of Rotterdam in 1847. That was the start of the museum; it was called ‘Museum Boymans’. Originally, the museum was housed in the Schielandshuis in Rotterdam. A major fire in 1864, in which a large part of the collection was lost, was reason to look for a new location. This only became reality in 1935. At that time Dirk Hannema was the director and the new museum, which had been designed by architect Van de Steur was opened. In 1958, the museum acquired the large art collection of the harbour baron D.G. van Beuningen. The name of the museum was changed to ‘Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’.
There are many other private collectors to whom the museum is very grateful. The diverse interests of these collectors laid the basis for the collection’s variety. And thanks to their passion, the museum is now the only one in the Netherlands that possesses paintings by Van Eyck, Titian, Jheronimus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Dalí.
In the second half of the 20th century, the museum’s own acquisitions increased, but the museum still profits from the generosity of collectors. In 1981, for example, it acquired, thanks to the the married couple Van Beuningen-de Vriese, an extensive collection of pre-industrial utensils. With the recent help of H+F Mecenaat, beautiful installations by artists such as Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist were acquired.
Since its construction in 1935, the museum building has also be considerably extended. The new exhibition wing by Alexander Bodon was opened in 1972 and in 1991, Hubert Henket built a pavilion for the collection of pre-industrial utensils. The most recent addition dates from 2003, when Robbrecht and Daem completed a new library and office section.