1. Home

Which was the First and Only Painting Van Gogh Sold?


"Red Vineyards near Arles" by Vincent van Gogh.(Larger image)

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Question: Which was the First and Only Painting Van Gogh Sold?
"Do you know which painting it was that Van Gogh sold during his lifetime?" -- James G.

The one painting Vincent van Gogh sold during his lifetime was Red Vineyard at Arles (The Vigne Rouge), which is now in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. It was exhibited in Brussels in 1890 at the annual exhibition of Les XX, and sold for 400 francs1.

It was bought by the Belgian artist and art collector Anna Boch. Vincent was a friend of her brother, Eugène Boch, and a portrait he painted of him is now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris).

It's a striking landscape painting, dominated by red and yellow, with a composition that leads the eye into the distance towards the setting sun. In a letter to his brother Theo written in Arles around the 6th of November 1888, Vincent describes the scene he subsequently painted: "... we saw a red vineyard, all red like red wine. In the distance it turned to yellow, and then a green sky with the sun, the earth after the rain violet, sparkling yellow here and there where it caught the reflection of the setting sun." (Read Van Gogh letter online.)

After his death five months later, and that of his brother Theo soon thereafter, it was Van Gogh's sister in law Johanna van Gogh-Bonger who strove to establish a market for Vincent's paintings. She also delayed the publication of his letters so that the public would get to know the paintings before the man. "It would have been unfair to the dead artist to arouse interest in his person before the work, to which he had sacrificed his life, was recognized and appreciated as it deserved to be."2

1. Simon Schama's Power of Art (page 298).
2. "The Posthumous Fate of Vincent van Gogh 1890--1970" in Studies in Post-Impressionism by John Rewald, Thames & Hudson, London, 1986. (page 244).

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.