Reading (1888) Berthe Morisot Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This artwork is titled Reading and was completed in 1888. Artist Morisot produced many paintings with a similar content, another of which was also called Reading.

Within this composition we find a red headed young lady in a relaxed mood as she makes her way through her latest book. She sits on a wooden chair on a patio, just outside the main house. A window is opened to her left hand side, with the frame appearing in the composition. The overall work is flooded with light, giving a positive, summery feel to the piece. She appears fairly young with a pale complexion. Her lips are rosy red and she looks down at the book which she balances on her two hands. She seems entirely engrossed in its contents and is dressed in a smart outfit, with a white flower head on her chest. Beside her are other items of furniture, all of which look fairly lightweight and aimed at summber afternoons outdoors in the garden. A blue rail passes across at the bottom which perhaps marks the start of their private garden.

In the distance we find some large leaved plants which spread up to the top of the composition. This gives almost an exotic feel to the work, and certainly gives the impression of heat and bright sun. Through gaps between the leaves we can spot tones of blue, but it is hard to know what they might be of. There is much to celebrate within this painting, with a young girl able to relax and enjoy reading a book, without any interference. The scene feels tranquil, as she enjoys the benefits of a relatively privileged life, where both genders could enjoy opportunities so long as they worked sufficiently hard. This appears to be someone enjoying reading as a leisure pursuit, rather than studying hard at school and the overall impression is positive and uplifting.

The tones used here are interesting, with reddish-browns used for the lower half, such as with the tiled floor, the furniture and also the girl's hair. By contrast, the upper half is entirely in colours of nature, with greens and blues. The window which appears from the right seems to upset the balance of the composition slightly, but Morisot would have considered this and had her own reasons for including it within the painting. It seems possible that the main garden would have been accessible from the right side of this painting, where the gate opens and leads downwards towards the types of plants that we see here.