This drawing was created after Van Gogh made a trip to the seaside village of Saintes Maries in May 1888. He made a painting with the same scene later when he went back to Arles. Van Gogh boasted that he had done the drawings of the boats on the beach without any sort of aid, thanks to the inward harmony he had found in Arles.
In a letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh wrote this: ''I must draw a great deal, for the very reason you spoke of in your last letter. Things here have so much style. And I want to get my drawings more deliberate, more exaggerated."