Girl Reading

William Morris Hunt (American, 1824–1879)


54.61 x 40.64 cm (21 1/2 x 16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

Not On View





The New England painter William Morris Hunt met Jean-François Millet in 1852. He had been studying art in Paris and had seen the French painter’s masterpiece, “The Sower,” at the Salon. With his friend William Babcock, Hunt traveled to Barbizon (near Paris), where Millet lived, to buy the painting. He stayed for two years, working alongside the revered French master and emulating his style and subject matter.
“Girl Reading,” a quiet image of a teenaged girl seated in a dark interior studying a book, was inspired by Millet’s paintings of young French peasant women sewing or spinning by lamplight. In those pictures, the women are working at domestic tasks after a long day of working in the fields or tending their flocks. Millet’s humane naturalism elicits the viewer’s sympathy. In Hunt’s painting, the warm light, soft paint handling, and delicate, subdued colors similarly indicate the artist’s affection for his subject. She, however, is clearly middle class. Hunt has transported Millet’s scene from a peasant’s humble cottage to an American parlor.

This text was adapted from Carol Troyen and Janet Comey, “Children in American Art” (Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2007, in Japanese).


Lower right: W M Hunt 53


1853, the artist; by 1869, Charles William Dabney (1794-1871), Boston; 1871, by descent to his wife, Frances Alsop Pomeroy Dabney; 1893, gift of Mrs. Charles W. Dabney to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 17. 1893)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles W. Dabney