Friday Fun: Women Reading

Portraits of women reading is perhaps one of the loveliest examples of ‘memes’ in art history, particularly in the 19th century and particularly in France. Was it the rise of the middle classes and of leisure time? Were the men boasting that their wives and daughters were well looked after, well-educated and could therefore spend time on that frivolous pursuit of reading novels? Or was it that there is a certain stillness in the act of reading which men as doers felt that they could not or would not choose to quite live up to? Or was it simply a respectable form of voyeurism for rich men/art collectors? Whatever the reason for it, it has left behind some beautiful paintings (all in the public domain, as far as I know, but please correct me if I am wrong).

One of the best known – by Fragonard.
Woman reading in landscape, by Corot.
Another dreamy summer readingscape, by Monet.
So intent on reading, this must have been a real page-turner, by Jacques-Emile Blanches
One of my earliest favourites, by Renoir.
She hasn’t got eyes for anyone but the book, leave her alone, by Matisse.
Victorian portrayals of the angel in the household on the rare evening off, by Edward John Poynter.
Blue Girl Reading by August Macke from the Blaue Reiter school of art.
American impressionism via Dutch painter Isaac Israels.