She is finding escape from routine in the pages of a novel. Or searching the pages of a more serious work for a way to broaden her horizons or transform her life. Or poring over a letter from a loved one. The reading woman represents a long, complex story that has fascinated generations of artists.
Why has the reading woman been such a popular subject for painters through the ages? Beyond being beautiful in herself, she is an expression of important, unspoken cultural ideas. She is ensconced in comfortable surroundings; she is at leisure: all’s right with the world. Well-chosen observations on the pleasures of literature, from historical and contemporary readers and writers, accompany each of the images presented here.