Henri Matisse and Reading

Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists. He seems to have had a fondness for women reading, as evidenced below.

Woman Reading, 1894

In Woman Reading, I love how he’s captured a quite private moment. I identify with the woman here – it’s as if she just wants time to herself to spend time absorbed in her favorite book. Of course, I would never choose to sit in a straight-backed chair to do so. Give me a overstuffed couch any day!

In Marguerite Reading, I love how you don’t even see the book, but it’s clear that Marguerite is, in fact, reading. I’m impressed that Matisse was able to capture so much with just a few pen strokes. It reminds me a bit of Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” of writing – I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something like if you are writing about a subject you know you can leave out certain things and they will still be communicated to the reader.

Marguerite Reading, c. 1906

The last example here is a much later work, from 1939. It seems that no matter how much Matisse’s style may have changed over the years, he was still drawn to the same subjects. Each work, though very different, shares a similar sensibility – the lowered head, the enjoyment of a moment to one’s self. The subject in Woman reading, black background, looks like a true bookworm, trying to get a few more minutes of reading in before whomever she’s waiting for finally arrives.

Woman reading, black background, 1939

Which is your favorite of the three? Do you have any favorite reading pictures?


6 thoughts on “Henri Matisse and Reading

  1. I love this! I was just at the National Gallery in DC and saw several great paintings of women reading. It's such a good theme. My favorite (from the gift shop) is Carl Larrson's "Woman Lying on a Bench" It's amazing how many of the women reading paintings also have cats. Thanks! ow.ly/7rBtN

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