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The village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer still exists and can be visited.

Van Gogh in


  1. 30/31 May 1888
     - 4/5 Jun. 1888

In the first week of June 1888, Vincent went to the fishing village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, approximately 40 kilometres south of Arles on the Mediterranean Sea. He longed to see “a blue sea and a blue sky” and hoped to spend some time drawing figures. Thus, on 30 or 31 May, he took his drawing and painting materials and travelled by carriage through the Camargue nature reserve to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. He planned to concentrate on drawing: he wished to practise doing it in “a more deliberate and exaggerated way” and surmised that the seaside would be too windy for painting.

Vincent watched the boats going out in the mornings and then spent his days working on the beach and in the village, which had only a few hundred inhabitants. Their small houses reminded him of the simple huts he had seen in Drenthe. Vincent drew and drew, and some of the works he made in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer show that he practised using expressive, decisive lines.

On 5 June, he returned to Arles with nine new drawings and three new paintings. In his studio, he used some of his drawings for further paintings. When he got home, he wrote to his brother Theo in delight:

“Now that I’ve seen the sea here I really feel the importance there is in staying in the south and feeling — if the colour has to be even more exaggerated — Africa not far away from one.” Read the complete letter

Vincent was pleased with his five-day trip to Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer and hoped to return, preferably in high season, when there would be people on the beach. He never did.

Relevant letters from Vincent

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  1. Marije Vellekoop, Roelie Zwikker

    Vincent van Gogh, tekeningen, deel 4: Arles, Saint-Rémy, Auvers-sur-Oise
    Amsterdam, 2007