Girls * Girls * Girls

Today at work I was looking for images of people reading, and while trolling Wikimedia Commons I was struck by how many paintings showed women relating in a sensual or almost sexual way to books. I bookmarked the search, thinking maybe someday it would be relevant to some blog business or other. And then this evening, six hours later, I came upon this very elegant piece from Book Patrol on Winslow Homer and the Women of “The New Novel.”


“The New Novel” captures the moment and encapsulates its cultural context. This is a young woman languidly lying down on her side, embracing a book as she might a lover, holding it close and dear, almost caressing its binding, her eyes half-lidded in dream-state transport. She is not engaged in “productive” activity at all; she is consumed within an inner life that leaves her unavailable to responsibilities, family, and potential suitors: She’s here but not here, gone into a world unavailable to those closest to her, that of her imagination, a dangerous place for a woman to be in the 1870s. Opening a woman’s mind to imagination was tantamount to opening Pandora’s Box.

I have nothing to add to Book Patrol’s post, which speaks nicely for itself, other than a few choice images:

Hermann Fenner-Behmer’s “Der Bücherwurm,” 1906


Franz Eybl’s “Lesendes Mädchen,” 1850


Max Koner’s “Allegorie auf den Frühling,” c. 1880


Theodore Roussel’s “The Reading Girl,” 1886


Antoine Wiertz’s extremely transported “The Reader of Novels,” 1853—note the devilish hand supplying her with literature.


And for a little literary afterglow, Ramon Casas’ “Jove Decadent.” Mmm hmm.

Jove_decadent Or as Book Patrol puts it, “Winslow Homer has it bad for this woman. The woman, alas, has it bad for the book.”

10 Comments to Girls * Girls * Girls

  1. December 15, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    LOVE the Casas. Do you know Will Barnett? He has a thing for women, books and cats in the same lithographs. I have one – and have forever – above my chair where I read.

  2. December 15, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink


  3. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    December 16, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Oh my oh my!

  4. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    December 16, 2009 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    >many paintings showed women relating in a sensual or almost sexual way to books
    Of course, it’s how the men who paint these relate to the women. Whatever but what a delicious piece, thankee Lisa.

  5. December 16, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Wow, great images. I hadn’t seen these.

  6. December 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    beautiful post!

  7. Karen Wall's Gravatar Karen Wall
    December 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Those are beautiful, Lisa. You might check out Harriet Devine’s blog, Lisa. She often has a ‘Woman Reading’ posted there (though not in these sensuous poses.

  8. Margarita's Gravatar Margarita
    December 18, 2009 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Beautiful stuff – the angels of perversity as we used to call them in our art historical fervor in grad school. Winslow Homer takes the prize, never mind that she is fully clothed, in black.

  9. December 21, 2009 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I think I should start reading naked. There must be something to it!

  10. Lisa's Gravatar Lisa
    October 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Nah, I read naked mostly in the summer. Nobody has ever offered to paint me. ;o)

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