Vincent van Gogh’s “Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries” 1888
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Over the past few days, Vincent van Gogh’s “Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries” has been a constant companion in my studio/work space. While I work at my computer, I find my eyes betray me, enticed by the vibrant colours of gold, red, green and blue. I am lost in the chemistry of the vivid scene that speaks of a faraway place of sun, sand and deepest blue sea.
I live on the Pacific Ocean, miles away from the sea-side fishing village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mar situated on the ancient Mediterranean Sea. Yet, when I focus on the painting, I am transported back in time to 1888. I feel the gentle warmth of a breeze from the water, carrying the scent of seaweed, fish and sea salt.
I am there with Vincent. It is early morning, before the boats head out to sea. Timing is critical for fishermen rush to begin their workday. I feel Vincent’s profound desire to capture the emotional and visual impact with pen and paper.
Loud voices, laughter, and activity energize the beach. I look over Vincent’s shoulder as his pen touched paper. With every mark made, the drawing came alive with the formation of the sea, sand and three boats.
It is a defining moment; now I see the beach through Vincent’s eyes. The beach is devoid of humanity. Only the sound of sea and wind remain. There is a quiet solitude.
“I made the drawing of the boats when I left very early in the morning, and I am now working on a painting based on it, a size 30 canvas with more sea and sky on the right. It was before the boats hastened out; I had watched them every morning, but as they leave very early I didn’t have time to paint them.”
Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo.
In the midst of life’s hustle and bustle, there are moments of respite. In the midst of noise and confusion, we can envision tranquility.
“There is peace even in the storm.”
Vincent Van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh