Brain Pickings

Well-Read Women: Gorgeous Watercolor Portraits of Literature’s Most Beloved Heroines

by

Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Clarissa Dalloway, Holly Golightly, Daisy Buchanan, Lolita, and more.

When my friend Lisa Congdon and I started our Reconstructionists project — a yearlong illustrated celebration of women who changed the course of history and our understanding of the world — we knew that nearly half of them would end up being women of letters. Now, New-York-based painter and fashion illustrator Samantha Hahn is giving us the literary fiction counterpart to The Reconstructionists in Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines (public library) — a collection of expressive watercolor depictions of such literary icons as Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Holly Golightly, and Clarissa Dalloway, paired with a memorable quote by each character.

Though some of the typographic renderings could use a bit more love and the quote selections tend to reach for the popular over the profound, the portraits themselves, to which the screen does absolutely no justice here, are breathtaking — sometimes tender, sometimes intense, always thoughtfully evocative of each heroine’s persona and sensibility.

JANE EYRE

'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë

NANCY

'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens

CLARISSA DALLOWAY

'Mrs. Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf

EMMA BOVARY

'Madame Bovary' by Gustave Flaubert

LARA GUISHAR

'Dr. Zhivago' by Boris Pasternak

ESTHER GREENWOOD

'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote

Pair Well-Read Women with Lolita reimagined by modern graphic designers and The Graphic Canon — literary classics distilled by contemporary cartoonists and graphic artists.

Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Share on Tumblr