The Sunday Salon -Woman Reading in a Landscape


 Woman Reading in a Landscape, 1869, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot


When Corot painted this young woman so totally immersed in her book, little could he have imagined that another woman some 160 years later would happen across this photo while browsing on the Internet and be struck speechless by the resemblance to herself and her situation that very same day.

Alas, I’m much older than Corot’s subject here, and my loose fitting capri pants and sleeveless t-shirt can’t even compare with the long skirt and apron adorning this woman’s figure,  but her pose, her intense focus on the tome propped open on her knee, the curved hand at her cheek, are all mirror images of the way I was sitting in my backyard earlier today.

Her landscape is lovely, isn’t it? yet she seems oblivious to the placid water and the young man seated in the rowboat who seems to be gazing across the lake, disappointed that his lady fair would not leave her book behind and join his outing.   Sadly, there was no water in my view today, simply the tall pine trees standing sentry across the width of my backyard, and the pale pink blossoms on the new impatiens I added to fill in some bare spots in the garden.

Naturally, I wonder what she’s reading…it looks as if it might be poetry, which would explain the look of deep concentration, the slight furrow in the brow.  Or perhaps it’s her own diary, the journal of her most secret thoughts which she has tucked into her apron pocket to peruse on this sunny hillside.   Of course, I could be wrong on both counts, and it’s the 19th century version of “beach reading,” a frothy Gothic type novel so popular in those times.  (Remember  Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s satiric look at this genre?)

As for my “landscape reading” today, you needn’t wonder…it was Prayers for Sale, a delightful historical novel by Sandra Dallas, about the friendship which develops between two women – one young, and one old – in a small Colorado mining town in the mid-1930’s.

So there you have it, the story of two women Reading in a Landscape.

Now tell me, have you done any landscape reading recently?  Where’s your favorite place to read outdoors?  And what were you reading there?


18 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon -Woman Reading in a Landscape

  1. What a great post! And a beautiful painting. 🙂 Our backyard turns into forest, and we’re right next to the Rockies, so I love reading out there. When I was little, I loved to read in trees! I might try that again; we have a pine tree in the back that looks like a fun climber.

    • Your comment reminded me of the way my son liked to climb into the crook of our old cherry tree and read 🙂 Thanks for recalling that nice memory!

  2. Lovely picture; like your interpretation too!(poor lad, that she should choose a book over him 😉 ) Alas, reading confined to indoors. Too. Much. Rain.

  3. What a lovely post! Now let’s see… 1869. Well, given she’s in France, she could have been reading Flaubert’s Sentimental Education that was published that year, or Baudelaire’s Spleen de Paris (but probably not Baudelaire, who was rather a boy’s poet). It’s unlikely, but I’d rather hope she was reading John Stuart Mills’ The Subjection of Women and planning a little revolt. But maybe she was lost in a thriller and was reading Dumas’s The Knight of Saint-Hermine. If she’s not bang up to date and is reading something recent and fashionable, she could be enjoying the rather melancholy romantic poetry of Lecomte de Lisle. Or she could be reading Stendhal or George Sand or Balzac. But she would certainly be profiting from the fact that in the past couple of decades, printers had finally cracked the problem of producing cheaper books. Serialised novels were all the rage in this era, too.

    Okay, thus endeth the literary history lecture!

  4. What a beautiful painting. No outdoor reading for me–I can’t concentrate. I look at the trees and the sky and smell the air and, of course, if I’m outdoors it’s with my kids and they interrupt every two minutes.

    • I tend to get distracted outdoors too (yesterday it was the antics of four squirrels who seemed to be engaged in Olympic style games), but I give it my best shot!

  5. This is lovely. Glad you mentioend the chap in the rowboat, too, because me, in my usual “hurry of a glance” didn’t notice him! and what a story he adds to the picture!
    I would agree with the poetry though I’d have to say how often are we furrowing our brow over poetry as opposed to one of our more “entertaining” reads?

    I did a little landscape reading this morning, outdoors by the water, before work. Oh, Becca, it was perhaps a mistake. It was lovely out there. No one was mowing (it was a work day) and the birds were busy and a light breeze was blowing through our soupy weather. I was reading some cool stuff on the internet (no book, but still, quite good.)

    And then I wen tin the house, fixed a travel mug and set out for work. And felt like a caged bird all day, sorry that I had to leave the gorgeousness of being out doors! OK, I’m exagerrating a bit in the “caged” part but it was a LOVELY way to begin a work day, begin outdoors, reading.

    It is sheer blis to read outdoors.
    And I love Corot – wonderful choice for your entry! thanks!

  6. I’ve been sitting on the porch each morning with my coffee and a book – but it is hard to get up and start the day, especially when the day includes being in an office cubby for eight hours.

    Like today.


  7. What a gorgeous picture. I love paintings of women reading. My favorite place to read is in my lounge on my front porch looking about across my front lawn. I wish I were there right now, as a matter of fact.

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