“Interrupted Reading” Part II

5 Apr

Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot is a French painter that is most known for his paintings of landscapes. Although painting landscapes was Baptiste’s forté, the artist also took an interest in painting portraits during his later years of life. One of those portraits includes Corot’s “Interrupted Reading.” The portrait depicts an uninterested, middle-aged woman holding a book. The Art Institute of Chicago describes the portrait as a painting of Corot’s ideal woman. According to the caption, a woman who looked depressed, and even somewhat miserable, was the “thing” to be during the 1870s. However, my interpretation of this paining is much different to that of the gallery’s.

The Art Institute’s description of Corot’s “Interrupted Reading” does not make much sense because it shows no relation with the title. The title, “Interrupted Reading,” does not suggest that the woman in the portrait is the ideal woman of the 1870s, or that Corot was infatuated by her depressed look. Thus through research, I came to the conclusion that Corot’s “Interrupted Reading” tries to capture a woman who is in deep thought in order to escape reality. Therefore the painting is an interpretation and symbolism for fantasy. The New Criterion supports this claim by stating that Corot uses books as “symbols of enchantment” (The New Criterion, 1996). The symbolism of the book suggests for people to concentrate on something other than reality, and to fantasize in order to escape the chaos of one’s life.

Furthermore, Corot’s portraits create an experience of relaxation, as his paintings of “gauzy landscapes” do as well (The New Criterion, 1996). Thus to add to my interpretation of Corot’s “Interrupted Reading,” I believe that the painting also tells people to slow down, think and relax. One can definitely feel relaxed when looking at Corot’s landscape paintings, but I can experience it when looking at Corot’s “Interrupted Reading” as well. This relates to the symbolism of fantasy and enchantment because when viewing any painting, I tend to fantasize about how it would be to live in that time period, or just in the painting itself.

In all, I believe that my interpretation of the piece well represents the portrait’s title. The portrait is of a woman whose reading was interrupted by thought and fantasy.

The most difficult part of this assignment was finding credible sources. The majority of the results from Google were websites that sold recreations of Corot’s paintings and reviews about his work. Therefore some of the sources I used on the first part of the assignment are probably not credible. I also confronted the problem of not finding sources that dealt with the piece itself. However, I did gain knowledge on how to get sources off of DePaul’s database and learned about Google scholar. These two search engines helped significantly in the second part of the assignment because they found articles that dealt with the actual piece, and that incorporated information about the artist as well.


Kimball, R. (1996, December) “Corot in New York.” The New Criterion. Retrieved April 6, 2010 from http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Corot-in-New-York-3420

“Camille Corot.” (2010) Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved April 6, 2010 from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/138362/Camille-Corot


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