The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'Reading Woman' shows a woman sitting on a chair with her hand on a book which lies on the table in front of her. She is not looking at it, but looks ahead of her with a dreamy expression and she is depicted in a fairly realistic way. Sluijters sketched the contours of the woman, her clothes, the book and the chair. In some places the canvas remained unpainted, as in the book and the back of the chair, but most of the canvas is painted in bright colours. Sluijters completely abandoned the realistic use of colour in the woman’s hair. By alternating light and dark colours there is still some suggestion of depth in her locks of hair. The background is formed of independent fields of colour which mainly follow the contours of the hair. This results in an aura-like effect, which is further reinforced by the choice of mainly warm and radiant colours. The brushstrokes are clearly visible.
On his travels through Europe in 1904 and 1907, Jan Sluijters visited Paris, amongst other cities, where he came into contact with Neo-Impressionism and Fauvism. The Neo-Impressionists used small dots of unmixed paint next to each other. In the viewer’s eyes, these dots are combined to form the correct nuance. The Neo-Impressionists aimed for a natural effect of light and shade, while the Fauvists opted for pure colours because of their expressive and decorative values. The influence of both movements is reflected in 'Reading Woman'. The light radiated by the painting is reminiscent of Neo-Impressionist works; large bright fields of colour and the almost decorative way in which the background has been filled in are very characteristic of Fauvism.
Choosing elements from different movements was typical of Jan Sluijters’ way of working. He put his own mark on things he found in other artists. However, the important aspect of 'Reading Woman' is not so much the formal similarity to other movements or artists, but the personal characterization of the woman who is depicted. In this respect, Sluijters himself referred to “psycho images”. He tried to express the inner life of the subject of the portrait, in this case his second wife Greet van Cooten. At the same time, he revealed his own feelings about his model on the canvas. This painting can be described as an Expressionist work because of this strong personal involvement which is revealed particularly in the choice of colours.
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