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Still life with three books

The titles of the books in this painting can, with a little difficulty, be read: 'Braves gens' by Jean Richepin, 'Au bonheur des dames' by Emile Zola and 'La fille Elisa' by Edmond de Goncourt, all three contemporary French novels. Van Gogh, a passionate reader, could thereby show his enormous respect for these authors. Van Gogh painted this still life on an unusual panel made from Japanese wooden crates. On the back the labels of the Japanese companies can still be seen.

In his letters van Gogh wrote regularly about the books he read. In 1887, the year he made this still life, he wrote to his sister Wil that naturalistic novels like these, which deal with the lives of ordinary men, grabbed him because they, paint life as we feel it ourselves.

Oil on canvas
31 x 48.5 cm
Paris, 1887
Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

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Still Life with Three Books by Vincent van Gogh
The Vincent van Gogh Paintings Project