Knitting Portraits

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


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


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


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


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.

36 thoughts on “Knitting Portraits

  1. I love Van Gogh so my favourite it’s his. Next time I vist a museum I’ll pay attention to knitting portraits and I’ll let you know. All the best

      1. I am going to the source. I contacted the Met to see if they can provide a definitive answer. If I hear back, I will post it here! Either way, she’s knitting or crocheting.

      2. They will probably say knitting but they are often wrong 🙂 I saw a display of spindle whorls that were labelled “large beads” until I told the curator how spindles were made and why a woman would have been buried with one. LOL I Anyway, I love that painting. My favorite Renoir is The Terrace. It lived at the Art Institute of Chicago and when I was growing up there I used to stand in front of it for hours at a time having long conversations with that red-haired girl.

  2. I have not been to Paris or New York, but when a travelling show of master’s work came to our local art gallery, I was so emotional upon seeing some of the works. It was partly the fact that these are such esteemed artists and partly the work themselves. The colours, the brushstrokes and the imagery were just so beautiful. I also have looked at knitting art online, and I like Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting by William Dyce and David Adolf Constant Artz has some nice knitting paintings.

    1. I agree. It’s amazing to see the actual paintings up close. Our own museum here in Houston brings many wonderful exhibits from all over.

      Funny that you mention Constant Artz. I have a post of his Puppy Love painting with the young girl knitting by the sea and the young boy staring up at her with adoring eyes. It was on sale at the annual fine arts show in Maastricht.

  3. Those are really interesting! I would never have thought to look for art featuring knitting, at least not painting-type art. My favorite is the last one, by Manet.

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂

    1. Glad you liked them. Of course, i can’t take credit for them. They’re beautiful even without the knitting but that’s what makes them special to me.

      I’ll have to check back and see which you decided to finish first.

  4. You have inspired me to bring my needles for my upcoming maternity shoot. These are all so lovely!

  5. Wonderful post!! I don’t know that I can pick a favorite amongst these…These are the amongst the first I learned of in school. Now, one of my favorite works where the subject matter concerns knitting is not actually a painting…but it is by one of the greatest artists working around the same time as most of these. Well, in my opinion she stands amongst the greats. Mary Cassatt’s Old Woman Knitting. She was highly influenced by Degas (another of my favorites). It’s an interesting view to me. A woman drawn by a woman trying to earn the respect of a male-dominated profession. It’s not a very romantic drawing…I think because she may have been intent on proving herself and her abilities at the time. You might find it interesting. 🙂

    1. It’s great! They are certainly wearing lots of clothes – must be cold. Interesting to see them against that immense landscape. Thank you for sharing.

  6. What a brilliant post! I love reading yarn related blogs. The Renoir is just superb. I wonder if I can find any of women crocheting?
    Thank you for visiting my blog. 🙂

    1. We wonder if the girl in the Renoir is actually crocheting. I sent an email to the museum but have not heard back and haven’t pursued the matter.

      I enjoyed your blog. Loved those fuchsia flowers and your crochet blanket.

  7. I love these! Thanks for stopping by my blog, too.
    oh, and for vintage knitting images, check out stitch divas studios’ Fb page… I don’t know where she finds them all, but I think you’d appreciate them.

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