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William Boyd writes:

I am a great-nephew of his and our family still possess some of his paintings. The major Dutch reference actually transmutes Anton into Antonia and gets dates all wrong though I don't have the details right now but I was in correspondence with the archivist at the de Lange archive (the Hirschigs married into the family) in Alkmaar at about him a couple of years ago and can look the details up if you are interested.

Anton Hirschig was very far from a struggling poor artist. He came from a wealthy family and I imagine was introduced to van Gogh through the Dutch painter Mauve, a mutual relative. Actually there's not much family tradition about him. We know that he found Vincent tiresome and that he walked through the night from Auvers to Paris after Vincent shot himself to inform Theo about the shooting and that is all we know about his relation with Vincent.

Family tradition is that he was gay and settled in North Africa where he spent most of his life before returning to Brussels dying (I think) in 1933 though I've also seen the date 1939 as well. My mother met him once as a girl but has no special memory of him save his being rather dismissive about Vincent. She said Anton left all his money to his chaffeur ... possibly an embellishment.

He's represented by a single painting in the reserve collection of the Municipal museum at the Hague, part of the Bredius bequest. Otherwise he has no significant sale room history. Vincent refers to him twice in his last letters. The paintings we have are neither especially fine nor interesting. There are others in the possession of another family I know of and I've been told they're better but I've never seen them. A few drawings and small paintings turn up on the internet from time to time. According to my grandmother a number of his paintings were confiscated by the Nazis during the occupation but I'm inclined to think that's a fantasy. We don't have any letters etc. save for a single postcard.

His grandfather (and my great-great-grandfather) Antonius Hirschig was a classics scholar who became rector of the gymnasium at Alkmaar. Antonius was also by way of being a poet and had his verse (which is uniformally dreadful) published in his lifetime and was consequently elevated to the status of a man of letters and membership of the relevant Dutch academy of letters. Antonius married both his daughters into the wealthy patrician de Lange family. His son, Anton's father, was an Amsterdam physician. Anton's brother Aadje (my grandfather) was a civil engineer who retired to Jersey but died around 1948 in Torquay. Another brother was an artillery officer who retired to Cannes but further I know nothing of him. There was also a sister who married cosily back into the de Lange family, who themselves had made inroads into the Dutch royal family by this time, dying in Alkmaar in the '50s I believe.

Of course we have asked the major auctioneers if they're interested in Anton's paintings ... they're not.

Reading (casually) around the history of the Auvers period, I came across a reference to a Spanish painter who befriended Vincent at the time. This might be a more significant area of enquiry for you. There is, by the way, no family tradition about the celebrated supposed fire-sale of Vincent's painting stored at Dr. Gachet's and certainly Anton never ever had anything of Vincent's (unfortunately ...).

Hope this is of interest. If you know more I would indeed be interested to hear from you about it;


William Boyd

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