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A Reading

A Reading

  • $ 19.99


Responding to the taste of affluent—principally male—collectors at the turn of the century, many American painters depicted women as exquisite objects associated with aesthetic pursuits. Some of their pictures hint at the popular precepts of Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, an influential Philadelphia neurologist, who prescribed isolation and absolute inactivity as a remedy for women's nervous disorders. Dewing shows two elegantly clad women in a room in his New Hampshire summer home. They appear pressed toward the windowless walls by the top of the immense table at which they sit, one gazing at a book, the other holding a sprig of flowers. An autoradiograph reveals that Dewing originally had the woman at the left gesturing toward her companion, who responded with a gaze. He later modified that hint of interaction, increasing the narrative's ambiguity and inviting the viewer to meditate on the women's passivity and their confinement in a claustrophobic sanctuary. Thomas Wilmer Dewing (May 4, 1851 – November 5, 1938) was an American painter working at the turn of the 20th century. Schooled in Paris, Dewing was noted for his figure paintings of aristocratic women.