Painted in 1876, Gauguin's Reine-marguerites, chapeau et livre dates from a crucial period in his development as an artist. Indeed, Gauguin's artistic advances at this point showed him consciously planning his career. As one of only a tiny handful of works that can be positively linked to that year (Wildenstein lists only four), this painting provides a vital clue to the manner in which Gauguin was evolving, and the artistic journey that he was making.
While on the one hand, he was becoming increasingly associated with Pissarro, whom he had met two years previously, 1876 also ranks as the only year that Gauguin showed a work in the Salon. This shows him at the very brink of 'becoming' Gauguin. Already making the artistic researches that would lead to his later breakthroughs, Gauguin had managed to consolidate his actual skills as a painter, and the presence of a work in the Salon itself hints that he was showcasing his talents, his abilities to render the world in a literal manner, before breaking away completely.
This is reflected in Reine-marguerites, chapeau et livre in the delicacy with which Gauguin has rendered the flowers. There is already a sense of the Impressionist in the brushstrokes, making this painting evocative as well as representative. Looking at Gauguin's other still life paintings of the period, it is clear that he was experimenting furiously, trying out larger brushstrokes rather than the fussy style preferred by Academicians.
Meanwhile, life as the father of a young family meant that his paintings increasingly had domestic subjects. The still life was crucial to his development in part because he could control the environment in which he was painting, control the subject matter completely, and avoid time pressure. But it also reflects the fact that, as a father and a husband, he had obligations to his household, and could not saunter off at will.
It is in keeping with this that in Reine-marguerites, chapeau et livre, Gauguin has chosen daisies to share the composition with a book and a hat, as some extension of the Impressionist ethos. In this way, the memento mori motif so central to many flower paintings is given a further edge: this is a painting not merely showing the ephemerality of life, but also of the moment, Gauguin capturing, even in a flower painting, the nature of an Impression.