In June 1888 Van Gogh visited the small fishing village of Saintes-Mories on the Mediterranean shore where the Rhone runs into the sea, and spent a few days drawing and painting. It was a new world to him and he was instantly
inspired from the brightly coloured fishing boats peppering the shoreline to the humble cottages, and all of it bathed in the brilliant Mediterranean sun.
Saintes-Maries was not too for from Arles, and he had gone there while the 'Yellow House', his rooms and studio in the town, were being repainted, ostensibly in expectance of Paul Gauguin who Van Gogh hoped to persuade to join him. During his stag Van Gogh wrote to Theo, and in the letter he sketched some of the paintings he was working on, including this one of cottages. On the sketch he noted the colours he was using in the painting so that Theo would be able to envisage the final work. The picture is a tapestry of primary colours ond texture with broad areas of pure tone enlivened by contrasting spiky foliage and thickly applied brushwork.