Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Nuenen, October 1885
oil on canvas,
65.7 cm x 78.5 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
This hefty Bible had belonged to Van Gogh's father, a Protestant minister. Van Gogh painted it just after his father's death. He placed his own copy of Émile Zola's La joie de vivre next to it. That book was a kind of 'bible' for modern life. The books symbolize the different worldviews of Van Gogh and his father.
Vincent described this work to Theo as 'a still life of an open, hence an off-white Bible, bound in leather, against a black background with a yellow-brown foreground, with an additional note of lemon yellow.' He wanted to show that the colour black could be effective. The brothers had previously discussed this question at length.
Theo thought Vincent's canvases were too dark and gloomy. He encouraged his brother to use lighter, brighter tones, as the Impressionists did.