Thomas Hovenden, Study for a Variant of “The One Who Can Read"

Graphite on paper
Credit Line
Woodmere Art Museum: Gift of Mr. Stiles Tuttle Colwill, 2018
17 ½ in. x 10 in.

Irish-born artist Thomas Hovenden painted The One Who Can Read in 1877. It was the first major painting he made of an intimate family group in an interior during his time in Pont-Aven. The work reflects the traditional lifestyle of Breton peasants in a world that was quickly evolving during the Industrial Revolution. In the painting, an illiterate mother and father watch proudly as their daughter reads aloud to them—a sign of generational progress. 

The study shown here was completed for a variation on The One Who Can Read. The Breton girl is dressed traditionally in a headdress, bodice, skirt, apron, and sabots (a kind of shoe). Hovenden has captured her clothing in great detail, shading each fold and crease in her dress and the buckles on her shoes.

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