As many of you have asked me, I have put together a list of some of my favorite art books. You’ll find a little compendium of art history books as well as some fictions books.
Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of Artists
A painter and architect in his own right, Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) achieved immortality for this book on the lives of his fellow Renaissance artists, first published in Florence in 1550. Although he based his work on a long tradition of biographical writing, Vasari infused these literary portraits with a decidedly modern form of critical judgment. The result is a work that remains to this day the cornerstone of art historical scholarship.
Spanning the period from the thirteenth century to Vasari’s own time, the Lives opens a window on the greatest personalities of the period, including Giotto, Brunelleschi, Mantegna, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian. This Modern Library edition, abridged from the original text with notes drawn from earlier commentaries, as well as current research, reminds us why The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects is indispensable to any student interested in Renaissance art.
Jonathan Lopez, The Man Who Made Vermeers
Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren
It’s a story that made Dutch painter Han van Meegeren famous worldwide when it broke at the end of World War II: a lifetime of disappointment drove him to forge Vermeers, one of which he sold to Hermann Goering, making a mockery of the Nazis. And it’s a story that’s been believed ever since. Too bad it just isn’t true.
Jonathan Lopez has done what no other writer could–tracking down primary sources in four countries and five languages to tell for the first time the real story of the world’s most famous forger. Neither unappreciated artist nor antifascist hero, Van Meegeren emerges in The Man Who Made Vermeers as an ingenious, dyed-in-the-wool crook–a talented Mr. Ripley armed with a paintbrush, who worked virtually his entire adult life making and selling fake Old Masters
Sue Roe, In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art
In Montmartre is a colorful history of the birth of Modernist art as it arose from one of the most astonishing collections of artistic talent ever assembled. It begins in October 1900, as a teenage Pablo Picasso, eager for fame and fortune, first makes his way up the hillside of Paris’s famous windmill-topped district. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafés, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joins the likes of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more, in revolutionizing artistic expression.
Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World
The art market has been booming. Museum attendance is surging. More people than ever call themselves artists. Contemporary art has become a mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description, and, for some, a kind of alternative religion.
In a series of beautifully paced narratives, Sarah Thornton investigates the drama of a Christie’s auction, the workings in Takashi Murakami’s studios, the elite at the Basel Art Fair, the eccentricities of Artforum magazine, the competition behind an important art prize, life in a notorious art-school seminar, and the wonderland of the Venice Biennale.
Louise Hall Tharp, Mrs. Jack: A Biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner
An in-depth biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner of Boston, via New York, in the 19th century. An American charmer and art collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband Jack kept company with many leading cultural figures of the day including Henry James, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler.
Edmund de Waal, The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss
The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.
The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.