landscape; outside; man; woman; reading/reading material; vegetation
The extraordinary career of Lilly Martin Spencer stands alone in mid-nineteenth-century America. She was the only woman to achieve professional success as a painter in the art capital of New York. Her career was the primary means of support for her husband and eight children.
Reading the Legend, one of her most ambitious paintings, is a romantic view of a young couple contemplating the picturesque ruins of Ireland’s Blarney Castle. The woman is the focal point of the composition, gazing up at the castle while listening to the story read aloud by her companion. By posing the man with his back to the viewer, Spencer depicts the woman’s experience of the tale, offering a rare alternative to the male point of view that was more typical at this time.