On his way from Paris to the Netherlands in November 1878, Theo van Gogh stopped in Brussels to see his brother Vincent. Together they visited the Musée des Beaux Arts, where Vincent was impressed by “so many remarkable paintings”. In a letter to his brother, he singled out the work of the artists Charles De Groux (1825–1870), Henri Leys (1815–1869) and Joseph Théodore Coosemans (1828–1904).
Two and a half years later, in the spring 1881, Vincent visited the museum once more. By then, the collection had moved to another building nearby. Vincent viewed the annual exhibition of the royal Belgian watercolour society. He found the show interesting and was particularly impressed by the Dutch artists. Fishing boat and Horseman by Willem Hendrik Mesdag (1831–1915) captivated him in particular:
“It was a large, important drawing, broadly done and so powerful that, as I said, nothing else could hold a candle to it.” Read the complete letter