During his time in The Hague, Van Gogh makes various drawings of a fish drying and smoking shop in Scheveningen. There, the herring is placed on thin sticks and smoked over smouldering sawdust and old pieces of wood in sheds, the so-called ‘bokkinghangen’ (herring ovens).
Colour and sheen
The smoked herring, or ‘bokking’, is known for its beautiful golden brown colour. Van Gogh successfully captures that colour and sheen in this still life. However, it does not date from his Dutch, but his French period. This is apparent from his use of colour, such as the bright yellow for the fish and the blue for the drapery in the background.
With this work, Van Gogh continues down the path he embarked upon in 1885 to transition from his ‘tonal’ painting in earthy colours to a palette with brighter, primary colours. The brushstrokes are also far more impasto than in his previous periods and are reminiscent of the thick paint layers of Alphonse Monticelli, a Provençale painter whom he admires greatly.