Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Reader (1895)

William Bouguereau: La Liseuse [The Reader]

In La Liseuse Bouguereau features a young peasant girl sitting on a simple stone bench, one schoolbook open in her hands and a small pile of others by her side. Many artists in the nineteenth century created idealized images of the simple, honest life of the peasant as a form of reassurance in the rapidly industrializing modern world. Every summer Bouguereau would travel to the country and after months of relentless painting, bring back six to eight finished canvases. He found his young models, including the present one, in towns such as La Rochelle, a seaport in western France on the Bay of Biscay. La Rochelle had strong personal associations for the artist, as not only the place of his birth, but also the town where he chose to spend the last years of his life. The model featured here appears in a number of Bouguereau's work from 1893 onwards, along with the sisters Jeanne and Marguerite. In La Liseuse she is pictured with a playful look on her face as she glances up from her studies. Bouguereau depicts the same subject in Distraction, yet even though the model is his housekeeper's daughter, he shows her as a middle-class young lady. [Sotheby’s]

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