Vincent van Gogh 1853-1890
Still Life with Bible or Open Bible 1885
Oil on canvas
65 cm (25.59 in.), x 78 cm (30.71 in.)
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Van Gogh was the son of a parson
After 1876 he felt a vocation for the church and began to study theology, but gave this up. He became a lay preacher in England and later became involved in missionary work in Belgium. He then volunteered to work as a preacher among the miners of the Borinage. After dismissal from this also, he began to draw seriously in 1880.
Open Bible depicts a large gold-leafed family Bible open to Isaiah 53, a small tattered copy of a French realist novel, Emile Zola’s Joie de Vivre (Joy of Life) and a snuffed-out candle in the background
Isaiah 53:3-5, foretells the suffering of Christ as the sacrificial lamb
Van Gogh’s father had died a few months before
Van Gogh continued to study the Bible even after abandoning his ministerial calling.
Paul Gauguin, who lived with van Gogh in Arles from October through December of 1888, tells us that "his Dutch brain was afire with the Bible."