“Constantly experimenting, in this portrait, Renoir wants to achieve the sensation of dazzling sunshine. Illuminating red hair and falling from behind the girl’s back onto the pages of an open book, the light reflects from the white paper on a charming young face.
Sun glares play everywhere. The brush of the artist does not slide with soft wide touches on the grain of the canvas. Paints put thickly, separate spots. For example, from a close distance it can be seen that the large light bow around the neck of the girl is written in thick white, and on top of and beside them clear blue, blue and bright red paints are laid with clear separate strokes. Close up, we see a thick, almost line letter, but moving away from the portrait, we find that, connecting together, these multi-colored spots and strokes, merging, convey a subtle play of the book of sunlight reflected from the white pages on a large scarf bow.
The same diverse methods of applying paint to a canvas from a thick spot, a stroke and paint rubbing on the ground with a brush, spatula or even a finger, created a juicy colorful symphony conveying the charm of a sunlit head and face. Renoir caught an instant impression. The portrait, despite the static nature of a simple composition, captures the rapidly passing and ever-changing color and airy atmosphere of the very appearance of the reading girl.
The simplest plot motif does not distract, but rather focuses the attention of viewers on the painting itself, on how skillfully, bordering on magic, the model’s head is illuminated by the sun. You can further analyze in detail how Renoir conveyed on the canvas instantly changing impressions of the delicate skin of the face, of the delicious honey-colored hair. It is possible to note the dark blue background of the portrait contrasting to the whole image and the outlines of the window frame outlined behind the head through which this blinding light emanates, or tell how the light look that marked the shoulder and accentuated the volume of the girl’s figure is put on the dark jacket. It is even better to see this masterpiece once, in order to understand that Renoir’s Reading Girl is one of the peaks of French impressionism.
The portrait is interesting also by the fact that the colors on it are laid in relief, and if you look at it intently, you can see volumetric elevations of the paint layer, especially in those places where Renoir tried to achieve the transmission of complex lighting effects. The drawing here did not play a special role. It was shaped by color. Therefore, its contours are unsteady and uncertain. Subsequently, Renoir will have a completely different attitude to the drawing in his compositions. But now, in the heyday of impressionistic painting, drawing played a subordinate role, unlike the academic painting of those years, where it occupied the main place. “