Knitting Portraits

by Verónica

Ever since I started knitting, I have a tendency to look for artwork featuring either women knitting or spinning on old-fashioned wheels when visiting museums. I have been fortunate to visit both the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York. It was there that I discovered these first two paintings.

The first is called “By the Seashore” by Auguste Renoir on display at the Met. The woman is beautiful with her ruddy cheeks and penetrating eyes. According to the museum catalog, Renoir most likely painted this portrait in his studio and rendered the images of the sea and cliffs from memory. There is a distinct difference between the clear outlines of the woman (his mistress and later his wife) and the looser brushstrokes of the landscape behind her. After her gaze, I noticed the items in her hands – a knitting needle and something she is working on.

By the Seashore by Auguste Renoir
1883 – Oil on canvas

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This next painting, “The Lacemaker” by Johannes Vermeer, is at the Louvre. Her face is so intently focused on her craft that it draws my eyes to her hands. My eyes then rest on the pillow with the loose threads spilling over.

The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer
c. 1669-70 – Oil on canvas

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I wish I could see this next one in person but it is in a private collection. The painting is “Young Woman Knitting” by Vincent Van Gogh. The girl stands out against the barren room. I am immediately entranced by the deep blues of her apron. The colors are in direct contrast to the browns of the floor and walls. You can just see her yarn trailing along her skirt to the ball on the floor. The scene feels so familiar.

Young Woman Knitting by Vincent Van Gogh
1881 – Watercolor

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This last painting is “Girl Sitting in the Garden” by Edouard Manet, also in a private collection. You can hardly see the girl’s face hidden under her hat as she watches her knitting. Even the knitting is loosely implied against the gray of her dress accented by that blue bow and the greenery in the garden.

Girl Sitting in the Garden by Edouard Manet
1879 – Pastel on paper

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If you were to google “paintings woman knitting,” many other options will present themselves. I like these and hope one day to see them again or for the first time in person.