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.