Figure drawing is not easy for Van Gogh. After a year of concentrated practice, he now decides to also make figure studies in oils. He takes his field easel, canvas and paintbox to Scheveningen, where he paints this fisherman. His increased skills and self-confidence are apparent in, among other things, the fact that he no longer makes an underdrawing, but lays out the representation directly with the brush.
‘Define the form’
Van Gogh paints the beach and the sea in flowing movements with a fairly large brush, and the figure with a slightly narrower brush. His main challenge is to place the various colours in such a way that they ‘define the form’. He avoids overly complicated details, such as hands and faces: for him, the ‘effect’ is of primary importance.
With his large head and short body, the fisherman looks more like a ‘fisher boy’ than an adult. Van Gogh may have used a young model here, because shortly before making this study, he writes to Theo: ‘I have a model – a country lad – who lives here in the neighbourhood and to whom I’ve already spoken about painting studies’.