Top 10 Art History Books We Recommend
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1001 Art Masterpieces You Must See Before You Die by Stephen Farthing (Amazon link)
- With almost 950 pages, this book is a treasure trove of wonderful paintings. Almost every page contains a painting and an explanation about the artist, the content of the work, and its background. And it covers works from 3500 years ago until today. It's a great book if you want to read a few pages at the time, or just flip through it to learn more about masterpieces you know or discover new ones.
- An overview of 50 female artists spanning over 500 years. The book is not perfect, as some of the information about the artists is limited (partly because not much is known about some of them), but it is a nice start to familiarize yourself with some of the achievements of these women during times in which men dominated the art scene.
- A nice entrance-level book to learn about some of the most famous painters from the 14th till 20th century. While you can certainly argue about which artist are included and excluded, it is an accessible book for people who want to get a better understanding of art history. You can read this book a couple of pages at the time, as there often is a one-page discussion of an artist, accompanied by a large image of one of his/her masterpieces.
- A wonderful overview of art movements ranging from cave paintings to modern art. This richly-illustrated book focuses on paintings and contains many bite-sized pieces of information, ideal for reading a few pages at the time. And it is pretty affordable for such a information-rich book.
- It is not cheap(!), but if you want to learn all about the life of the revolutionary Dutch Baroque painter Frans Hals, this is the book to choose. It has beautiful, large illustrations of many of his works, and is written by the famous Frans Hals scholar Seymour Slive. You can either use it as a reference book or a coffee table book.
- A carefully-researched book about the last two decades Claude Monet's life. It provides a wonderful portrait of Monet's character and determination, his social world, and the ups and downs in his life. A truly engaging book following Monet's mission to create a series of enormous paintings of his beloved water lilies.
- One of our favorite art books discusses the rise of Impressionism. While packed with carefully-researched information, it is written like an exciting novel. The two central characters are the painters Édouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier. One is on top of the art world, the other primarily receives criticism. But things are about to change...
- If you have ever been to the Louvre, you won't believe how many amazing artworks you have not seen during your visit(s). And if you have never visited, this book will draw you into the incredibly-rich collection of the most-visited museum in the world. It's not a cheap book, but it comes in a solid slip case, making it a beautiful collectors item or coffee table book.
- This is probably the most popular textbook on art history. With 90,000 words and many illustrations, it covers art history from the beginning till the end. It is very rich in information and gives you a great foundation on understanding art and its history.
- Do you love the works of Vincent van Gogh, and do you want to understand what was going on in his mind? Then this is the perfect book to read. Spanning a period of 15 years, this book contains the translations of the letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo and other friends and family. The book is richly illustrated with his artworks, but also contain copies of his original letters and the drawings he made on them. It truly helps to understand the mind of this artistic genius.