The Hollow Man by the Sea: a short story

Le Grand Van Gogh, France. | Sculpture by Bruno Catalano

The Hollow Man by the Sea

a short story by Lesley Scoble
The hollow man trudges along the beach. He is travel weary, but most of all, he feels drained from illness. The hope is that the week beside the sea will aid his recovery from the mental health problems from which he suffers.

He clutches the case that possesses all he owns, with a grip that squeezes his fingers of feeling. His clenched fist holds on tight to his life’s belongings. Sealed to the handle. He clings to the worn leather suitcase as a drowning man clings to a life raft. 

The contents are paltry, but contain all that he wants. Paints. Brushes. Tubes of oil colours. Cadmium Red, Viridian, Cobalt Blue… and, of course, his favourite hue, Chrome Yellow. The colour of his soul. 

His feet leave deep impressions in the soft sand behind him. He hasn’t eaten for days. The hunger in the hollow pit of his stomach is nothing compared to his driving force; the ongoing hunger for his art. His poor, troubled, brilliant mind is still searching for an answer. 

Then, just ahead of him, he sees bobbing about on the sparkling water in the harbour of Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer, some colourful fishing boats.

Vincent picks up his pace—there is almost a skip in his step, and the sand puffs up little clouds at his feet.

A little bit of history

In the summer of 1888, Van Gogh took a week away from his home in Arles to convalesce from mental illness. He travelled by stagecoach to a little fishing village in the Camargue with the hope he could recover his health.

In the week that he was in the small fishing village of Saintes-de-la-Mer, Van Gogh drew studies in the early morning, before the fishermen left in their colourful fishing boats.

From these early morning studies, he painted in his pension room. He completed three paintings and nine drawings during his stay. One painting is Seascapes at Saintes-de-la-Mer.

Seascapes at Saintes-de-la-Mer, Carmargue, France. Vincent Van Gogh

“The heart of man is very much like the sea. It has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Post Script

It is interesting to note another sculptor using the same technique of economising the use of bronze in his sculptures. This sculpture, Introspection by Volodymyr Tsisaryk, has a cutout too. The works encourage the mind to replace, to fill in the negative void, with what the eye doesn’t see. It is a clever use of nothing. 

Introspection by Volodymyr Tsisaryk
Acknowledgments and Links
For Sadje’s #What Do You See #171 prompt.
Sculpture by Bruno Catalano


  1. Bravo👏🏼! I withheld this information about who’s statue this was and was waiting for someone to recognize it. Thanks Lesley for writing about this episode in his life.

    Liked by 2 people

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