Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Paris, October-November 1887
oil on canvas,
54.4 cm x 73.6 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
This still life is an ode to modern French literature. The books with yellow covers are not immediately identifiable to 21st-century viewers. But Van Gogh's contemporaries recognised them as modern French paperbacks.
Van Gogh was an avid reader and an admirer of novelists such as the Goncourt brothers and Emile Zola. They offered a realistic, unvarnished perspective on modern life.
The open book in the foreground invites the viewer to come and read.