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?