Paris, October - November 1887
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 recognized 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.
dutch artiststill lifebookoil on canvas