By Laura Woodard, BMA Librarian
For art lovers, there’s nothing better than finding solace in an engrossing tale about the origins of an artist’s life or the imagined history behind a work of art. In honor of National Library Week, I’ve compiled a list of books that will transport you to another world, inspire you to delve deeper into an artist’s life, and perhaps even encourage you to try your hand at creating your own works of art. And if you have young people in your life, I hope you’ll introduce them to the world of art and art history with a few of these recommendations for children.
What have you read and loved that you would add to this list? The library at the BMA doesn’t hold much fiction, but we hope the inspiration you find within the pages of these books will bring you to our library to delve deeper into the subjects that light your passions.
- Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World
Encourage young learners to expand their knowledge of women in the arts. This whimsically illustrated volume explores medium, movements, and representation of 50 female creators from the 11th century until today.
- Pacific Northwest Art: Coloring Pages for Kids and Kids at Heart
Hands-on learning is vitally important for children and what better way than through coloring. Kids and adults alike can learn about the art of native people of the northwest coast of North America by exploring their unique forms and styles.
- Children’s Book of Art: An Introduction to the World’s Most Amazing Paintings and Sculpture
If you’re looking for a children’s book that doesn’t focus solely on western art, give this title a try. Your young people can learn about cave paintings, aboriginal art, mosaics, street art, and post-war abstract art, all in one comprehensive book.
- The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova
The author of The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova weaves a gripping tale of obsession, theft, and destruction. Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has his life upended when painter Robert Oliver, who attacks a painting at the National Gallery, becomes Marlowe’s patient. What follows takes the reader along the journey to discover what torments Oliver.
- The Passion of Artemisia, Susan Vreeland
Those who know the story of Artemisia Gentileschi know of her triumph over great adversity, torture, and shame. Vreeland’s brilliant use of language brings to life the enthralling world of Artemisia.
- Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
Though the movie adaptation of this book was lovely, this is a case of “the book is far better than the movie.” Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fictionalized tale of Johannes Vermeer’s creation of the painting of the same name. A solitary painter, Vermeer allows servant Griet into his studio to clean. She slowly gains Vermeer’s attention and in turn becomes one of his subjects.
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Young boy Theo survives an accident that kills his mother and is taken in by a family that lives in a world far removed from what he understands. As an escape from a home and school that alienates him, Theo seeks solace in art. Into adulthood, Theo straddles two worlds – between wealthy drawing rooms and second-hand shops – and finds himself in dangerous company.
- The Painter from Shanghai, Jennifer Cody Epstein
Pan Yuliang, a renowned Chinese painter, was known for her Western style of painting for which she drew criticism. The Painter from Shanghai traces Pan Yuliang’s life from the banks of the Yangtze River, to pre-war Shanghai, to 1920s Paris, and back to China as the revolution approaches.
- Lust for Life, Irving Stone
If you have ever wanted to read a fictionalized re-telling of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, look no further. An engaging read, Stone follows Van Gogh’s tormented life to the end, a life that never saw the successes he would later earn. Written in 1934, this book has earned its status as a classic.