The theme of the reader, at the origin of a long iconographic tradition with famous representations by Vermeer such as Young Girl Reading a Letter at the Window (1657), fascinates many artists. Depictions of women reading followed one another, as Laure Adler shows in her analysis of 20th-century paintings in which women who read could be seen as dangerous if they got hold of knowledge.
In The Reader, Louis Henri Salzmann does not seek to depict a specific person, but rather to capture the image of a woman reading. Her sparsely detailed face reinforces her anonymity, and her deep concentration in a world that only she can access emphasises the mysterious power of the act of reading rather than the identity of the subject.
Oil on canvas, deposit of the Swiss Federal Art Collection, inv. FK 2151