When the seventy-two-year-old Corot showed A Woman Reading at the Salon of 1869, the critic Théophile Gautier praised its naïveté and its color but criticized the faulty drawing of the woman, noting the rarity of figures in Corot’s work. Although the artist had painted similar studies for about a decade, this was the first and one of the very few that he exhibited. Corot returned to the canvas soon after the Salon; he reworked the landscape but left the figure intact.
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Title:A Woman Reading
Artist:Camille Corot (French, Paris 1796–1875 Paris)
Date:1869 and 1870
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:21 3/8 x 14 3/4 in. (54.3 x 37.5 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Louise Senff Cameron, in memory of her uncle, Charles H. Senff, 1928
Inscription: Signed (lower left): [COR]OT
Oscar Simon, Dinard (until 1894; sold on October 4, for Fr 9,000, to Boussod, Valadon); [Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Paris, 1894; stock no. 23590; sold on November 7, for Fr 14,500, to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York, 1894–95; sold November 7 for $4,000 to Senff]; Charles H. Senff, New York (1895–d. 1911; his estate, 1911–28; sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, March 28–29, 1928, no. 61, for $31,000 to Cameron); his niece, Louise Senff Cameron, New Windsor, N.Y. (1928)
Paris. Salon. 1869, no. 550 (as "Une liseuse").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of Today in Masterpieces of Painting before 1900," July 10–October 2, 1932, no catalogue.
Paris. Musée de l'Orangerie. "Corot," 1936, no. 90 (as "Liseuse dans la campagne").
Musée de Lyon. "Exposition Corot," May 24–June 28, 1936, no. 94 (as "Liseuse dans la campagne").
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Corot, 1796–1875," May 11–June 16, 1946, no. 56 (as "Une Liseuse dans la campagne").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 144 (as "Woman Reading").
Art Institute of Chicago. "Corot, 1796–1875," October 6–November 13, 1960, no. 111 (as "Woman Reading [Une liseuse dans la campagne]").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971, no. 365.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Impressionist Epoch," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 58.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 58.
Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," December 3, 1986–February 1, 1987, no. 10.
Milan. Pinacoteca di Brera. "Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani," March 4–May 10, 1987, no. 10.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barbizon: French Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century," February 4–May 10, 1992, no catalogue.
Fort Lauderdale. Museum of Art. "Corot to Cézanne: 19th Century French Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," December 22, 1992–April 11, 1993, no catalogue.
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Corot 1796–1875," February 27–May 27, 1996, no. 141.
Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Corot 1796–1875," June 21–September 22, 1996, no. 141.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Corot," October 29, 1996–January 19, 1997, no. 141.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 12.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Paris. Musée Marmottan Monet. "Corot: Le peintre et ses modèles," February 8–July 8, 2018, no. 36.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Corot: Women," September 9–December 31, 2018, no. 37 (as "Woman Reading in the Country," ca. 1868–70).
Théophile Gautier. "Salon de 1869." L'illustration 53 (June 5, 1869), p. 364 [reprinted in "Tableaux à la plume," Paris, 1880, p. 312], praises its naïveté and color, but criticizes the faulty drawing of the figure; notes the rarity of a figure dominating the landscape in Corot's work.
Bertall. "Promenade au Salon de 1869." Le journal amusant (June 5, 1869), p. 3 (caricature of the painting), caricatured as "La Jeune charbonnière prise dans une toile d'araignée".
Ernest Hache. "Salon de 1869." Les Merveilles de l'art et de l'industrie: Antiquité, moyen age, renaissance, temps moderne. Paris, , p. 298.
L[éon]. Roger-Milès. Les artistes célèbres. Vol. 32, Corot. Paris, , p. 84.
Ethel Birnstingl and Alice Pollard. Corot. London, 1904, pp. 168, 179.
Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 3, pp. 114–15, no. 1563, ill.; vol. 4, pp. 170, 375, calls it "Une Liseuse dans la campagne" and dates it 1868–69; reproduces a photograph of the original composition with trees on both sides of the background, erroneously stating that this is its present state; erroneously describes the lithograph by Émile Vernier [which was made after Corot painted out the trees] as depicting the original composition [see Refs. Burroughs 1928, Ivins 1928].
Etienne Moreau-Nélaton in Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 1, p. 243 [reprinted in Ref. Moreau-Nélaton 1924].
E[tienne]. Moreau-Nélaton. "Les figures de Corot." L'art et les artistes 2 (1905–6), p. 69, ill. p. 70.
"Senff Art Works Costly." New York Times (October 22, 1912), p. 22, notes that it has been appraised by Durand-Ruel at $5,000.
Etienne Moreau-Nélaton. Corot. Paris, 1913, p. 84, remarks upon its "humanité très moderne, s'écartait des ses contemporaines par une certaine bizarrerie d'accoutrement".
Bryson Burroughs. "Woman Reading in the Fields, by Corot." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 23 (June 1928), pp. 154–56, figs. 1 (original composition), 2, calls it "Woman Reading in the Fields"; praises it as the first figure painting by Corot to enter the MMA collection, commenting that the artist spent one week of each winter month painting models in his studio; reproduces the painting before and after Corot's alterations, noting that the underpainting is visible and that the changes were obviously made by the artist himself, thus correcting Robaut's [Ref. 1905] reversal of the two versions.
William M. Ivins Jr. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. 1928, states with certainty that Corot painted out the trees in this picture sometime before the end of 1870 since the photograph of its original state was accessioned by the Cabinet [d'estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France] in 1869 and the lithograph by Vernier showing its altered state was accessioned in 1870.
"Smaller Paintings of Masters on Sale." New York Times (March 18, 1928), p. 31, states that it was bought from Boussod, Valadon in 1894 and sold by Knoedler to Senff in 1895.
"$580,375 is Total at Senff Art Sale." New York Times (March 30, 1928), p. 20, notes that Senff paid $4,000 for this painting in 1895 and that it sold for $31,000 to his niece, Louise Senff Cameron, at his estate sale, fetching the highest price of the evening.
"Senff Corot Goes to Metropolitan." New York Times (June 11, 1928), p. 12.
C. Bernheim de Villers. Corot: Peintre de figures. Paris, 1930, p. 34, no. 262, ill. (original composition), calls it "Une liseuse dans la campagne" and dates it 1868–69; notes that it is one of only three figure paintings that Corot showed at the Salon [see Ref. Tinterow 1996].
Preface by Paul Jamot inExposition Corot. Exh. cat., Musée de Lyon. Lyons, 1936, p. 43, no. 94, calls it "Liseuse dans la campagne" and dates it about 1868–69.
Paul Jamot. Corot. Paris, 1936, ill. on title page, dates it 1868–69.
Alexander Watt. "Notes from Paris." Apollo 23 (April 1936), p. 226, ill.
Preface by Paul Jamot inCorot. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. [Paris], 1936, pp. 45–46, no. 90, dates it 1868–69; repeats Robaut's [Ref. 1905] erroneous assertion that the original composition did not include the tree at left.
Henri Marceau. Corot 1796–1875. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1946, pp. 20, 40, no. 56, ill. [includes reprint of Ref. Venturi 1947], calls it "Une Liseuse dans la campagne (Woman Reading)" and dates it 1868–69; repeats error about the original composition, stating that "the background trees have been modified several times".
Lionello Venturi. Modern Painters. Vol. 1, New York, 1947, p. 156.
Joseph C. Sloane. French Painting Between the Past and the Present: Artists, Critics, and Traditions, from 1848 to 1870. [reprint 1973]. Princeton, 1951, p. 125 n. 29, pp. 126–27, fig. 83, misattributes a quote by Gustave Geffroy, regarding Corot's paintings of women, to Corot himself [see 7/26/2009 email in archive file].
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 233, no. 144, colorpl. 144, refers to it as both "Woman Reading" and "Woman Reading in the Fields"; comments that Corot painted out the tree at left in order to render the figure less crowded and more impressive; remarks that the painting's structure recalls Poussin, and the figure Ingres
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 21.
François Fosca. Corot, sa vie et son oeuvre. Brussels, 1958, ill. p. 155, calls it "La Liseuse dans la Campagne" and dates it 1868–69.
André Coquis. Corot et la critique contemporaine. Paris, 1959, pp. 117–19.
Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1959, unpaginated, no. 52, ill. (color), as "Woman Reading".
Robert L. Herbert. Barbizon Revisited. Exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco. Boston, 1962, p. 53, refers to it as the first painting of a single female figure that Corot exhibited.
Sylvie Béguin inFigures de Corot. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1962, p. 172, under no. 75.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 63–65, ill., call it "A Woman Reading"; state that the photograph in Ref. Robaut 1905 was taken during the 1869 Salon.
Introduction by Kenneth Clark. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 309, no. 365, ill., calls it a late example of the "lyrical and brooding paintings of young women" that "reveal the true depth of his [Corot's] artistic mentality".
Pierre Miquel. Le Paysage français au XIXe siècle. Vol. 2, 1824–1874. Maurs-la-jolie, 1975, pp. 51–52.
Hélène Toussaint inHommage à Corot: Peintures et dessins des collections françaises. Exh. cat., Orangerie des Tuileries. Paris, 1975, p. 184.
Anne L. Poulet inCorot to Braque: French Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 1979, p. 4, under no. 2, calls it the only painting of a single female figure that Corot ever exhibited.
Antje Zimmermann. "Studien zum Figurenbild bei Corot." PhD diss., Universität Köln, 1986, pp. 51, 57, 139, 240 n. 4, p. 245 n. 32, p. 352, no. 46, ill., dates it 1868–69; discusses the relation between figure and landscape in this and several other reading figures, including "Reverie" (R1422; MMA 29.100.562), "Girl Reading" (R1378; Oskar Reinhart collection, Winterthur), "Woman Crowned with Flowers, Reading" (R389, Musée du Louvre, Paris), and "Interrupted Reading" (R1431, Art Institute of Chicago); suggests that Corot was influenced by a 1552 woodcut of a woman's figure against the horizon, reproduced in a book by A. F. Donis, and relates both images to Dürer's "Melancholy".
Gary Tinterow et al. Capolavori impressionisti dei musei americani. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Milan, 1987, pp. 30–31, no. 10, ill. (color).
Jean Selz. La Vie et l'œuvre de Camille Corot. Paris, 1988, p. 136, ill. p. 133 (color), notes that Corot painted about twenty images of women reading; erroneously states that this is the only figure painting Corot ever exhibited at the Salon (see Tinterow 1996).
Fronia E. Wissman. "Corot's Salon Paintings: Sources from French Classicism to Contemporary Theater Design." PhD diss., Yale University, 1989, vol. 1, pp. 107–10, 205, no. 117; vol. 2, fig. 53, calls it "Une Liseuse (Woman Reading in a Landscape)"; discusses it among paintings in which the meditative female figure personifies nature, concluding that in this way "Corot resolved the problem of integrating the figure into its surroundings".
Joseph J. Rishel inMasterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Colin B. Bailey, Joseph J. Rishel, and Mark Rosenthal. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, pp. 2, 130 n. 2, fig. 1, calls it one of only two figure subjects exhibited during Corot's lifetime; misidentifies its catalogue raisonné number as R550, perhaps confusing it with its entry number at the Salon of 1869.
Michael Clarke. Corot and the Art of Landscape. London, 1991, p. 139.
Roger Hurlburt. "Free Spirits." Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (December 20, 1992), p. 4D.
Helen Kohen. "Lasting Impressions." Miami Herald (December 20, 1992), p. 6I.
Jean Leymarie. Corot. 3rd ed. (1st ed., 1966). [Geneva], 1992, pp. 148–49, ill. (color) [English ed., 1979].
Polly Sartori. "Corot's Private World: An Invitation to his Studio." Christie's International Magazine 11 (September/October 1994), p. 17, asserts that it is the only female portrait that Corot exhibited in his lifetime.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 408, ill.
Gary Tinterow and Polly Sartori. "The Corot Interview." Barbizon, Realist and French Landscape Paintings. Christie's, New York. May 22, 1996, p. 17.
Gary Tinterow inCorot. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 267, 329–30, 417, no. 141, ill. p. 331 (color) and fig. 144 (original composition) [French ed., "Corot 1796–1875," Paris, pp. 33, 330, 392–93, no. 141, ill. (color and black and white)], notes that this is one of only four figure paintings Corot exhibited during his lifetime; states that infrared reflectography reveals the contours of a tree that correspond precisely to those in the 1869 photograph of the painting, remarking that Corot probably modified the painting because of its poor reception at the Salon; notes that "the overwhelming majority of his approximately 350 figure paintings depict a woman who is engrossed in her reading, meditating on what she has read, or simply asleep with a book in her hand"; cites Raphael's "Belle Jardinière" (Musée du Louvre, Paris) as a direct influence on this picture and suggests Corot's familiarity with a photograph by Louis-Rémy Robert depicting a similar scene of a woman reading.
Oskar Bätschmann. "Les Portraits anonymes: la transformation du tableau de genre." Corot, un artiste et son temps. Ed. Chiara Stefani, Vincent Pomarède, and Gérard de Wallens. Paris, 1998, p. 315, erroneously states that this painting and "A Monk" (R375; Musée du Louvre, Paris) are the only figure paintings exhibited by Corot [see Ref. Tinterow 1996].
Dianne W. Pitman. Bazille: Purity, Pose, and Painting in the 1860s. University Park, Pa., 1998, p. 177, fig. 116, mentions it as a possible source for Bazille's "The Fortune Teller" (Private collection).
Jed Perl. Eyewitness: Reports from an Art World in Crisis. New York, 2000, p. 225.
Vincent Pomarède inCorot: Naturaleza, Emoción, Recuerdo. Ed. Vincent Pomarède. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2005, pp. 238, 252, 315, 383, 387, 404, fig. 7.6 (color).
19th Century European Art. Christie's, New York. April 19, 2005, p. 182, under no. 166, as "Woman Reading in a Landscape".
Vincent Pomarède inOskar Reinhart Collection "Am Römerholz" Winterthur. Ed. Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice. Basel, 2005, p. 330 n. 9.
Richard R. Brettell and Stephen F. Eisenman. Nineteenth-Century Art in the Norton Simon Museum. Ed. Sara Campbell. Vol. 1, New Haven, 2006, p. 107, fig. 23a, date it 1869 and compare it to Corot's "The Cicada" (1865–75; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).
Gary Tinterow inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 31, 196, no. 12, ill. (color and black and white).
Tamar Garb. The Painted Face: Portraits of Women in France 1814–1914. New Haven, 2007, p. 116, pl. 112.
Joseph J. Rishel inMasterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, pp. 2, 6 nn. 2, 5, fig. 1 (color).
Vincent Pomarède inThe Secret Armoire: Corot's Figure Paintings and the World of Reading. Ed. Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice. Exh. cat., Collection Oskar Reinhart "Am Römerholz," Winterthur. Munich, 2011, pp. 19, 106, 128–30, 140, 142, 173, no. 15, ill. (color) and figs. 74 (1869 photo of the painting in its first state) and 75 (X-ray) [German ed., "Corot. L'Armoire secrète: Eine Lesende im Kontext"].
Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice inThe Secret Armoire: Corot's Figure Paintings and the World of Reading. Ed. Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice. Exh. cat., Collection Oskar Reinhart "Am Römerholz," Winterthur. Munich, 2011, pp. 10, 55, 61–62, 92, 110, 150 [German ed., "Corot. L'Armoire secrète: Eine Lesende im Kontext"].
Kerstin Richter inThe Secret Armoire: Corot's Figure Paintings and the World of Reading. Ed. Mariantonia Reinhard-Felice. Exh. cat., Collection Oskar Reinhart "Am Römerholz," Winterthur. Munich, 2011, p. 83 [German ed., "Corot. L'Armoire secrète: Eine Lesende im Kontext"].
Kathryn Brown. Women Readers in French Painting, 1870–1890: A Space for the Imagination. Farnham, England, 2012, pp. ix, 115–16, 125 n. 109, fig. 3.15, states that it "directly echoes the structure of" the artist's "Young Shepherdess Reading" (ca. 1855–61, Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur).
Mary Morton inCorot Women. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2018, pp. 11, 167 n. 15, ill. p. vi, pl. 37 (color, overall and detail), calls it "Woman Reading in the Country" and dates it about 1868–70.
Sébastien Allard inCorot Women. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2018, p. 45, calls it "Woman Reading in the Country".
Sébastien Allard. Corot: Le peintre et ses modèles / The Painter and His Models. Exh. cat., Musée Marmottan Monet. Paris, 2018, pp. 25, 74, 77, 111, 173, no. 36, ill. p. 115 (color).
Mariella Guzzoni. Vincent's Books: Van Gogh and the Writers Who Inspired Him. Chicago, 2020, pp. 154, 217 n. 12, ill., reproduces Goupil's photograph of the painting from shortly after its appearance in the Salon of 1869, before Corot reworked the background.
A photograph of the original composition (see Robaut 1905), as shown at the Salon of 1869, shows foliage in the background, on both sides of the figure. This foliage was painted over prior to Émile Vernier's reproductive lithograph, which shows the present, second state of the painting.
Zimmermann (1986) notes a connection to several other reading figures, including Reverie (The Met 29.100.563; Robaut 1905, no. 1422), Girl Reading (Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur; Robaut no. 1378), Woman Crowned with Flowers, Reading (Musée du Louvre, Paris; Robaut no. 389), and Interrupted Reading (Art Institute of Chicago; Robaut no. 1431).
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