Reading can incite the imagination. We can envision entire worlds, fictional characters as if they were real, and breathtaking action with well-chosen language in vivid description. With all that said, all the “magic” of reading takes place on a page and in our minds. How can these powerful experiences be portrayed to a third party much less in art?
Although we may not be able to tell what is going on in that person’s mind looking at someone reading, artists can portray the utter captivation that readers feel for their beloved books. Check out these absolutely beautiful paintings that show us visually the beauty and captivation of reading.
1. Compartment C, Car 293 (1938) by Edward Hopper
It’s an endearing and recommending sight, seeing someone read on a train or a plane.
2. Boy Reading Adventure Story (1923) Norman Rockwell
In a book, any person or any kid can see themselves do anything: go to space, climb Everest, or slay the dragon and save the damsel.
3. Lübeck Orphanage (1894) Gotthardt Kuehl
I like that this painting shows an orphan reading. Is she escaping her situation? Is she learning for a future in teaching? I find it fascinating.
4. Black Man Reading Newspaper by Candlelight (1863) Henry Louis Stephens
Can you imagine a more life-changing thing for this man to read than a report about President Lincoln’s most famous and influential speech? I wish I could know what he is thinking.
5. Madame de Pompadour (1756) François Boucher
A significant woman in French history, Madame de Pompadour wasn’t just chief mistress to King Louis XV; she was a patron of the arts, architecture, and philosophy. This was a woman who knew her stuff.
6. Rosa and Bertha Guggar (1883) Albert Anker
It’s never too early to start reading to your children, even if they are asleep, no matter your background.
7. World of dreams (1876) Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema
Who hasn’t fallen asleep while reading at some point? And if she is anything like me, the book I read sometimes affects my dreams. The world in the book she read came alive in her dreams.
8. Reading (Clara) (circa 1865) Federico Faruffini
I love her stacks of books. She looks as if she has been reading for hours, maybe even days.
9. Bookworm (1926) Norman Rockwell
I love the realistic but also farcical art of Norman Rockwell. His characters are funny and endearing and feel completely genuine to me.
10. Sunday Afternoon – Interior With A Girl Reading (1849 – 1927) Michael Peter Ancher
I love that reading is universal across cultures and across time. This Danish painter portrays a young girl in very different circumstances than we are used to, yet she is reading, just like I do.
11. Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source (1785) Antoine Vestier
Because people couldn’t take selfies willy nilly like we do now, their portraits usually included what was most important to them. Some appeared in their portraits on their horses, with their hunting guns and dogs, or with other meaningful objects. This woman stands with her fingers in the pages of a book, as if she had been reading and was interrupted to complete the portrait. Could that expression include a hint of annoyance?
Do you think art can convey someone’s love of reading? Which one of the paintings featured in this post is your favorite?
YouTube Channel: TOPofART Painting Reproductions
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