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A rich history of collecting

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has been associated with collectors since its foundation. Many have been from Rotterdam, but they have all shared a broad view of the world. The museum is, in fact, a collector of collections.

It was the bequest of the collection of Utrecht-based lawyer F.J.O. Boijmans to the city of Rotterdam that gave birth to Museum Boymans, which opened in 1849. Around 1900, the museum began to acquire contemporary Dutch prints and drawings, and in 1910 it began to collect ceramics and glass. The collection was given a fresh impetus between 1910 and 1930 through gifts and bequests of glass, silver and ceramics from collectors such as E. van Rijckevorsel and J.P. van der Schilden. Their example inspired other collectors to gift their collections to the museum. The acquisition of the collection of A.J. Domela Nieuwenhuis in 1923 laid the foundation for the current collection of prints and drawings.

In 1939, the Museum Boymans Foundation was established by a group of prominent donors with the aim of ‘promoting the flourishing’ of the museum. In 1940, D.G. van Beuningen gifted most of the Koenigs collection of drawings to the museum. The applied arts collection doubled in size during the Second World War, and the collection grew strongly after the war thanks to numerous purchases, gifts and bequests.

With the purchase in 1958 of the collection of the late D.G. van Beuningen, including masterpieces such as The Tower of Babel (c.1568) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the museum was renamed Museum Boymans-van Beuningen (the spelling was changed in 1998 to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen).

Poplars near Nunen

In 1903, Museum Boymans became the first museum in the world to own a work by Vincent van Gogh when it acquired Poplars near Nuenen (1885). Donated by a group of twenty-six art lovers, it was Van Gogh’s first work in a public collection. He painted the work in in 1885 in Nuenen, near Eindhoven, but probably added a few lighter touches of paint in Paris under the influence of the French Impressionists. This makes the painting a key work in the artist’s oeuvre.

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Poplars near Nunen