This life-size nude was first shown at the New English Art club in 1887. Critics were scandalised, and The Spectator wrote that: 'Our imagination fails to conceive any adequate reason for a picture of this sort. It is realism of the worst kind, the artist's eye seeing only the vulgar outside of his model, and reproducing that callously and brutally. No human being, we should imagine, could take any pleasure in such a picture as this; it is a degradation of Art'. The model was Hetty Pettigrew, a popular model for many artists at the time, and Roussel’s mistress.
The Reading Girl
Date of work
Oil paint on canvas 152.4 x 161.3 cm
Théodore Casimir Roussel (1847–1926) was an English painter. He began his career in art in his mid twenties, and was mostly self-taught. James McNeill Whistler, as a friend and mentor, was an influence on his work, and they shared a passion for Japanese art, which can be seen in Roussel’s paintings. Despite beginning his public career with the controversial nude The Reading Girl
, his later work was primarily landscapes, painted from his home in Parsons Green. Roussel went on to exhibit regularly with the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Scottish Academy, and became a founding member of the Allied Artists’ Association.