Reading: Gwen John


Gwen John used her own portrait for this, the second version of this painting.  The picture in the background is one of her paintings of her cats.

I like this painting very much because of the seeming temporariness of the pose.  To me, in some ways, this is the picture of a reader.  There are many paintings of readers lost in their books, creating a different temporality and world within the world of the painting.  What sets this one apart for me is the pose, which suggests not a reader settled in with the intention to read so much as one who has happened to pick up a book while in the middle of something else and has been drawn in, everything else forgotten.  The book lying on the table behind her suggests that perhaps the one currently being read was only moments ago lying there too.  In other words, I read this as a painting of the kind of reader who cannot help herself–if there is something to be read, she will be drawn to read it, no matter what else she may be doing or supposed to be doing at the time.  Or in yet other words, I (over?) identify with it.


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