Boats at Saintes Maries, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh

In June 1888 Van Gogh traveled by coach across the Camargue, which reminded him of Holland, to the seaside resort of Les Saintes-Maries-dela-Mer on the Mediterranean. The village was famous for its fortified cathedral, built like a ship, the curious design of the thatched roofs of its cottages, and its fishing fleet. Van Gogh recorded all of these. But the novel opportunities of the place were the sea and the colorful boats. In the year of 1881,Van Gogh had often visited Scheveningen, a fishing village and holiday resort on the North Sea, a few miles from The Hague. There he drew the great fishing smacks drawn up on the beach, in the manner of Hague School painters such as Henrik Mesdag and Anton Mauve. Van Gogh's excursus into marine painting in June 1888 recalls their pictures and his own early essays in this genre. In a letter about this trip to the seaside he explicitly compares Les Saintes-Maries with Dutch seascape; it was different only in the greater brilliance of its colors. The motif of small boats drawn up on the beach also occurs in the works of Claude Monet in the 1880s. In a letter of summer 1888 Van Gogh compares not his boat pictures but the painting of the Tarascon coaches to Monet's pictures of Boats on the Beach at Etretat.