Three novels, 1887

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Panel, 31 X 48.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 335


Van Gogh painted this still life on the oval lid of a Japanese tea box. With some difficulty, the titles of the books can be discerned: Braves gens by Jean Richepin, Au bonheur des dames by Emile Zola and La fille Elisa by Edmond de Goncourt, all three of them contemporary Naturalist novels. Van Gogh was a great reader, of books in Dutch, German, English and French. He was particularly influenced by the French Naturalists. As he wrote to his sister Wil, ‘they paint life as we ourselves feel it, thereby fulfilling the need we have for people to tell us the truth.’

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