Eastman Johnson: Interesting News

Interesting News: Eastman Johnson

American Eastman Johnson spent some time in Europe where he studied the works of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish masters. Interesting News, with its theme of a girl, reading, the map motif, and the subtleties of light, reminds the viewer of Vermeer in particular.

In a highly descriptive Realist style, Eastman Johnson’s Interesting News from 1872 depicts a girl reclining while reading a newspaper. Her gaze is fixed on the article of interest with an intense absorption. The girl’s head is facing away from the window on the left which is the source of light in the painting. Therefore instead of her face being illuminated or animated by light, it is shaded and more indicates the thoughtful process of reading.

The muted tones of the girl’s dress and the interior walls – together with the partial inclusion of the map on the wall – suggest a hushed atmosphere of concentrated inquiry and a curiosity about the world.

Perhaps the painting can be interpreted as an instance of the empowerment of women, albeit painted by a man. She is certainly shown here as a capable and intelligent member of society, despite being largely confined to the domestic realm both in the painting and in the American society at the time.

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