This small painting is of particular importance in the work of the artist and the collection of the Kunsthaus Zürich; for these huts in Saintes-Maries, with their vibrant blues and oranges, signalled the start of a new phase in Vincent van Gogh’s oeuvre.
Van Gogh broke with realistic, dark-toned painting while he was still in Paris, under the influence of Impressionism. In February 1888 he moved from the capital to Arles, aiming to study colours and light in the south of France. But the actual breakthrough to the luminous, intense coloration that makes him the forefather of European Expressionism was triggered by a stay in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer from 30 May to 3 June. After his return, he translated two drawings of simple dwellings into paintings, one of which is in the Kunsthaus Zürich. Here for the first time he emphasises and exploits to the full the extreme contrasts of blue and orange, red and green, white and black.