8 “Go-Away-I’m-Reading” Paintings

Rachel Cordasco

Staff Writer

Rachel Cordasco has a Ph.D in literary studies and currently works as a developmental editor. When she's not at her day job or chasing three kids, she's writing reviews and translating Italian speculative fiction. She runs the website sfintranslation.com, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Impressionist painters: they were a motley group, radical for their time, daring, and adventurous. Their angle was to paint what they saw, rather than what they thought they should see, or what people expected them to see.

What does this have to do with books and reading? Well, I’m no art historian, but I noticed over the years that Impressionist painters have a bit of an obsession with readers. And not just any readers- women readers.

Why women? I could spout the academic view that women were often associated with novel reading in the 19th century, or I could spout the shallow view that Impressionist painters just loved how women in frilly dresses looked while they were engrossed in a good story. What I will say is that Impressionist painting and reading are perfect for each other, for a person who is deep in a good book is not really “there,” even if you think you see them. They are, in fact, traveling in another land and another time, and thus they’re slightly out of focus. As a reading woman myself, I am strongly drawn to these paintings of other women reading, even if we’re separated by more than a century. As you’ll also see, women painted many of these scenes, as if they were conjuring up the times when they were most happy.

And so, without any further ado, I bring you some of the greatest “go-away-annoying-people-can’t-you-see-I’m-reading?” Impressionist paintings.

"The Reader (Young Woman Reading a Book)," Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876

“The Reader (Young Woman Reading a Book),” Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876

"Girl Reading in a Salon," Giovanni Boldini, 1876

“Girl Reading in a Salon,” Giovanni Boldini, 1876


"Pink Note: The Novelette" James McNeill Whistler, 1884

“Pink Note: The Novelette” James McNeill Whistler, 1884

"Auguste Reading to Her Daughter," Mary Cassatt, 1910

“Auguste Reading to Her Daughter,” Mary Cassatt, 1910


"A Woman Reading," Claude Monet, 1872

“A Woman Reading,” Claude Monet, 1872

"Reading With Green Umbrella," Berthe Morisot, 1873

“Reading With Green Umbrella,” Berthe Morisot, 1873


"Camille Monet Reading," Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1872

“Camille Monet Reading,” Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1872


"Isle of Shoals," Childe Hassam

“Isle of Shoals,” Childe Hassam


For more wonderful bookish paintings, see Liberty’s post.

Have any other “go-away-can’t-you-see-I’m-reading?” Impressionist painting favorites? Tell me in the comments!


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