Van Gogh was completely taken by Japanese art during this period. It had a profound effect on his style. The swiftly drawn yet confident lines added emphasis to the brightly contrasting colours of the boats. The essence of the Japanese work that he had grown to love was delicately mastered into his own.
This work is one of the many drawings and paintings Van Gogh began in the Mediterranean village of Saintes-Maries-de-la mer in 1888. Back in Arles, he combined these studies and sketches into paintings.
"I’d like you to spend some time here, you’d feel it — after some time your vision changes, you see with a more Japanese eye, you feel colour differently. I’m also convinced that it’s precisely through a long stay here that I’ll bring out my personality." - Vincent van Gogh to Theo Van Gogh. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, 5 June 1888