The first monograph to examine the depiction of reading women in French art of the early Third Republic, Women Readers in French Painting 1870-1890 (Ashgate, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1409408758) evaluates the pictorial significance of this imagery, its critical reception, and its impact on notions of femininity and social relations. Covering a broad range of paintings, prints, and sculptures, this book shows how the liseuse was subjected to unprecedented levels of pictorial innovation by artists with widely differing aesthetic aims and styles. Depictions of readers are interpreted as contributions to changing notions of public and private life, female agency, and women’s participation in cultural and political debates beyond the domestic household. This book explores images of women readers from a range of social classes in both urban and rural settings. Such images are shown to have articulated concerns about the impact of female literacy on labour environments and family life while, in many cases, challenging conventions of gendered reading. I also present an alternative way of conceiving of modernity in relation to nineteenth-century art, a methodological departure from much recent art historical literature. Artists discussed range from Manet, Cassatt and Degas, to less familiar figures such as Lavieille, Carrière, and Toulmouche. You can read an excerpt here.
The book has been reviewed in French Studies, Woman’s Art Journal, Nineteenth-Century French Studies and the Balliol College Annual Record.
My related publications include:
‘Women Newspaper Readers and the Nineteenth-Century City: Revisiting a Troubled Relationship in Art History’ in: Women in the City: French Literature and Culture, (eds) Siobhan McIlvanney and Gillian Nicheallaigh (forthcoming University of Wales Press, 2018).
‘The Domestic Interior as a Tactile Space: Jules-Aimé Dalou and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’ in (ed.) Anca Lasc, Visualizing the Nineteenth-Century Home: Modern Art and the Decorative Impulse (forthcoming Routledge, 2016).
‘Nostalgia and Identity: Jules Simon and the Twentieth-Century Woman’ in Memory Studies (Sage Publications), 3 (3), 2010, pp. 224–31.
‘Reading Bodies: Female Secrecy in the Works of Renoir and Degas’ in (ed.) Markus Hallensleben, Performative Body Spaces: Corporeal Topographies in Literature, Theatre, Dance and the Visual Arts (Rodopi, 2010), pp. 157–68.
‘A Space for the Imagination: Depicting Women Readers in the Nineteenth-Century City’ in (eds) D. Periton, V. di Palma and Marina Lathouri, Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City (Routledge, 2008), pp. 58–71.
Related conference presentations and invited papers include:
‘Women Readers in Nineteenth-Century French Painting’: Saint Louis University (March, 2015).
‘Interpreting Women Readers in Nineteenth-Century French Painting’, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium (2013).
‘Reading the City: Women, Newspapers, and Nineteenth-Century Urban Life’, Conference on Women and Urban Space (Women in French), King’s College, University of London (May, 2014).
‘Imagining Literacy: Working Women in Nineteenth-Century French Painting’, Annual Conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, Helsinki (2010).
‘Reading Resemblance: The Family as Interpretive Community’, paper presented at the annual conference of the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies Association, Austin, Texas (2010).
Mary Cassatt, Women Reading, c. 1900, oil on canvas,
Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York