'Red note in the green'
Van Gogh placed a striking red signature on this painting. But his main goal was not to identify himself as the maker of this work. What mattered to Van Gogh was the colour.
He later wrote to his brother Theo:
On a seascape there’s a very outrageous red signature, because I wanted a red note in the green.
Letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, c. 13 August 1888.
‘A colour like mackerel’
The Mediterranean – has a colour like mackerel, in other words, changing – you don’t always know if it’s green or purple – you don’t always know if it’s blue – because a second later, its changing reflection has taken on a pink or grey hue.
Letter to Theo van Gogh. Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, on or about Sunday, 3 or Monday, 4 June 1888.