Vincent van Gogh was a misunderstood genius. Known as a madman by many and living a life of poverty, he sold only one piece of painting in his life. One person in the world who purchased his paintings was Belgian artist Anna Boch. Why and how did she buy the painting of an unknown artist she had never met?
Boch was an Impressionist painter from Belgium. Thanks to her wealthy father, she enjoyed an affluent life with her brother Eugene and collected works of young artists. She collected 431 paintings throughout her life. She was also a member of Les Vingt, which comprised of 20 radical artists in Belgium. This portrait was created by Theo van Rysselberghe, who was also a member of the group. In the pointillism portrait, Boch is holding a palette in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, gazing far. Apparently, the portrait portrays her pride as a professional artist. Les Vingt also invited artists from abroad to their annual exhibition, to which Paul Signac, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gaugain and Van Gogh was invited in 1890. Van Gogh entered six pieces including the Sunflower, and Boch purchased the “Red Vineyard” for 400 francs.
Anna’s brother Eugene was a close friend of van Gogh while living in Arles, France. Anna had been aware of van Gogh’s situation through her brother. She thought highly of his talent, but she also wanted to please her brother by purchasing his painting. When van Gogh took his own life in the summer of that year, the painting became the only one that he sold during his life, and Boch became the sole collector who recognized Van Gogh’s talent.
Boch was a great artist with a keen eye, but she was not recognized for her works during her life. When she passed away in 1936, she left around 140 paintings to the daughter of her gardener. When her great nephew, Luitwin von Boch, chairman of Villeroy & Boch, purchased the collection in 1968, she was re-recognized for her works as a great artist.