Woman Reading, 1894 by Henri Matisse

Woman Reading is produced by Henri Matisse in 1894, and it became his first real breakthrough with critics and the public: he exhibited it in 1896 at the Salon du Champ-de-Mars. The artwork, which is painted with oil on canvas, is owned by the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.

The painting shows a calm and tranquil scene: a woman, shown with her back to the viewer, sits in a chair reading a book. Matisse wanted to emphasize the similarity between the type of room depicted and an artist's studio like his own. To accomplish this, he gave the room strong hints of an artistic use, with several paintings hanging on the wall. There is a strong sense that reading can transport a reader into another world: the woman's room is rather untidy, but she is so engrossed in her book that she does not notice this.

Matisse was influenced at this time by Nicolas Poussin as well as by modern artists such as Édouard Manet, and by Japanese art.In 1896 he exhibited several paintings in the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and began selling his work, including some to government collections, and appeared to be on the way to a conventionally successful establishment career. With Woman reading 1894, Matisse achieved his first public success in 1896 at the salon du Champ-de-Mars. The intimate domestic interior is a theme that prefigures much of Matisse's later work and the subject of a woman reading recurs in his paintings as late as the 1940s.