The Novel--Girl Reading

Accession Number

The Novel--Girl Reading

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
lithograph, printed in black ink, laid down on heavy wove paper

12 5/8 in. x 9 13/16 in. ( 32 cm x 24.9 cm )

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
James McNeill Whistler
United States, 1834–1903
The Novel—Girl Reading
Transfer lithograph
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1954/1.434
Although he had been trained in printmaking as a student in the United States, Whistler first began to work seriously in lithography in the 1870s. At that time, lithographs were produced by drawing on a large block of limestone with a waxy crayon, a process that limited Whistler’s ability to draw freely and spontaneously. When he returned to lithography a decade later, Whistler discovered that the introduction of a lightweight transfer paper facilitated his work in this medium by allowing for greater mobility and flexibility. Rather than drawing the design directly onto the stone, the drawing is executed on a special paper that then is transferred to the stone by a professional printer.
Most of Whistler’s lithographs were printed by the London-based firm of Thomas Way, and later his son, T.R. Way. Lithographs such as The Novel—Girl Reading were not published in large numbers and impressions remain rare; in this case only six impressions were created during the artist’s lifetime.

Subject matter
The theme of a femaie model posed in drapery was explored by the artist from the 1860s, and reached a peak in the 1890s. Many of the later works show women in diaphanous drapery, revealing the nude form underneath. This work recalls Whistler's interest in terracotta tanagra figures from the 1860s.

Physical Description
This print shows a standing female figure posed in profile. She is standing with one foot slightly forward, holding an open book. Her face is turned downward toward the book. She has a long skirt, bare feet, a draped cloak around her torso and a bonnet with a tie at the back.

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Primary Object Type

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