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Bierens de Haan, Johan Catharinus Justus

    Image Credit: Museum Boijmans

    Full Name: Bierens de Haan, Johan Catharinus Justus

    Other Names:

    • J. C. J. Bierens de Haan

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 17 November 1867

    Date Died: 18 December 1951

    Place Born: Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): prints (visual works)

    Career(s): art collectors and physicians


    Print collector, medical doctor; surgeon. Bierens de Haan was the son of David Bierens de Haan, professor of mathematics and physics at Leiden University, and Johanna Catharina Justina IJssel de Schepper. The young Bierens de Haan attended the Leiden gymnasium and, from 1887 to 1894, he studied medicine at Leiden University. He also received training in hospitals and universities abroad, in particular in Bonn, Vienna, Paris, and London. In those years he began building up his print collection, while visiting the European print rooms. After having earned, in 1896, his doctor’s degree, he specialized as a surgeon. In 1899, at the outbreak of the Boer War, he went to South Africa to serve the Dutch Red Cross as an ambulance-doctor. In 1901 returned to Leiden, where he continued his training as a surgeon. In 1902 he joined the chief committee of the Dutch Red Cross, a position that he held until 1915. In 1905 Bierens de Haan settled in Rotterdam, where he practiced as a surgeon. Besides his profession he kept a vivid interest in print collecting. During the Balkan Wars of 1912/13, in Greece, he again served as an ambulance doctor. Another war, the First World War, brought him to Paris, where he directed, from 1915 to 1917, the Dutch hospital in the Bois de Boulogne. Before and after this war Bierens de Haan traveled extensively to destinations as far as Russia, North America, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, India, the Dutch East Indies, China and Japan. In 1919 he closed his surgeon practice in Rotterdam. After an extended trip he settled in Amsterdam in 1923, where he dedicated himself to systematically broadening his print collection. He intended to bequeath this collection to the Museum Boijmans of Rotterdam, which he already had presented with occasional donations. He turned his main attention to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with an emphasis on the Dutch school. He ordered, classified, and described his collection in a card system. To provide the necessary funds for the purchase of prints, he established, in 1936, the Lucas van Leyden foundation, named after the Leiden engraver. In 1942, during World War II, the Germans confiscated Bierens de Haan’s house, but they did not take his collection. Several selections of the prints were temporarily on show in Museum Boijmans during the war. After the war, Bierens de Haan published two art historical studies, which both are proof of his scholarly approach to the field of engraving. In 1947 his monograph on the so-called Meester van het Amsterdamse Kabinet (Master of the Amsterdam cabinet), also known as the Hausbuch Meister, appeared. It dealt with 91 late fifteenth-century dry point engravings by this master, kept in the Amsterdam Print Room. Another publication, L’oeuvre gravé de Cornelis Cort, graveur hollandais, 1533-1578, followed in 1948, dedicated to the sixteenth-century Dutch engraver Cornelis Cort, who worked in several cities in Italy, including Venice, where he engraved Titian’s paintings. For this work, the 80 year old Bierens de Haan was awarded the golden museum medal. He never married. After his death, in 1951, he bequeathed his huge collection of 26,000 prints and his library to Museum Boijmans. The Lucas van Leyden foundation is up to the present day administered by the executive committee of the museum for the purchase of prints.

    Selected Bibliography

    De meester van het Amsterdamsch Kabinet, met reproducties in lichtdruk van het geheele gegraveerde werk. Amsterdam: A. A. Balkema, 1947; L’oeuvre gravé de Cornelis Cort, graveur hollandais, 1533-1578. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1948.


    Lugt, Frits. Les marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes… Supplément. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1956, p. 69; Hannema, D. Flitsen uit mijn leven als verzamelaar en museumdirecteur. Rotterdam: Donker, 1973, p. 72; Bierens de Haan, J. C. “Bierens de Haan, Johan Catharinus Justus (1887-1951)” Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland 4 (1994): 37-39; [obituaries:] Ebbinge Wubben, J. C. Bulletin Museum Boijmans, Rotterdam. 3 (July 1952); Juynboll, W. R. “Johan Catharinus Justus Bierens de Haan (Leiden, 17 November 1867 – Amsterdam, 18 December 1951).” Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde, 1952-1953, p. 62-63.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Monique Daniels


    Emily Crockett and Monique Daniels. "Bierens de Haan, Johan Catharinus Justus." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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