József Rippl-Rónai (1861 – 1927)
As far back as antiquity, reading has been considered a sign of education. The mental immersion in the personal world of imagination that reading enables became an increasingly frequent motif starting in the 17th century, in particular with the subject of a woman reading a letter. This painting in the collection of the Clemens Sels Museum Neuss is remarkable for the pensiveness of the expression. The Hungarian painter József Rippl-Rónai, who was a member of the Nabis, shows a standing woman in profile holding a letter in her hand. Her eyes are closed and her face is covered by the black veil of her hat; she appears turned away from the outside world. Rippl-Rónai underscores the intimate aloofness of the subject with a diffuse lighting. The window suggested on the left is hidden by a curtain and the lamp in front of the woman casts a greenish light through her veil onto her face. With flowing gradations of color the artist masterfully creates a fragile atmosphere to match the motif of the daydreaming woman. The meticulous use of color is characteristic of the works from what he called his “black period”, and to which this painting in Neuss belongs.