Where to Begin: Books about Art, Artists, and Art History

For many, when art or art history is brought up, many feel out of their depth because they “just don’t get art” or they don’t know where to begin. Whether you have no knowledge about art and want a place to begin your adventure into the amazingly diverse and wide field of art history or you have a background in art and want to know more, this post is for you! We’ve collected some of our favorite books, fiction and non-fiction, to help you learn more.

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy ...

KIDS

Perhaps you’re a parent or teacher, looking for some books about art to introduce your children or students to art and art history!

  • Parker Looks Up by Parker and Jessica Curry (3 to 5 years old)
  • This Little Artist by Joan Holub (3-5 years old)
  • Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Anna Novesky (Grades K-2)
  • Little People, Big Dreams: Frida Kahlo by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (4-7 years old)
  • Radiant Child: The Story of Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (4-8 years old)
  • Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter (5-8 years old)
  • Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity by Sarah Suzuki (8 years old and up)

NON-FICTION

There is a wide array of non-fiction books about art and art history, with something for everyone. Whether you like true crime, military history, or something else, there is something for you. Here are some of our favorites.

  • The Crime Lover:
    • The Gardener Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser
    • Portrait of Dr. Gachet: The Story of a Van Gogh Masterpiece, Money, Politics, Collectors, Greed, and Loss by Cynthia Saltzman
  • The Military Historian:
    • The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn H. Nicholas
    • The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel
  • The Biography Lover:
    • Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  • The Future Feminist Art Historian:
    • Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History by Bridget Quinn
    • Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
  • Art and BIPOC: 
    • The Whole Picture: The colonial story of the art in our museums & why we need to talk about it by Alice Proctor
    • Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists by Lisa Farrington 

FICTION

Maybe non-fiction isn’t your thing and you’re looking for a great summer read. Here are some fictionalized versions of artists’ lives to enjoy on the beach, on your couch, or during your lunch break!

  • Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
  • Rodin’s Lover: A Novel by Heather Webb
  • The Painter from Shanghai: A Novel by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  • I, Juan de Pareja: The Story of a Great Painter and the Slave He Helped Become a Great Artist by Elizabeth Borton de Treviso
  • Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis

We hope these recommendations help you begin or continue your art historical adventure! Leave a comment belong what some of your favorite art history books are!

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