This is my list of the 10 best books about artists. All of these books are on my bookshelf and they are books that have stayed with me, they are amazing stories with beautiful writing.
They are stories about the artists that painted beautiful 17th century Dutch masterpieces and stories about 20th century forgers. They’ll take you from Sotheby’s auction house to the Hermitage Museum in wartime Leningrad. There is something to be learned about art from each book, not just about the artist. And they’re all beautifully written.
by Joan Breckwoldt. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase a product I linked to. This helps me with the cost of running this website. Thank you!
Books about Contemporary ArtISTS
Richard Polsky is an art dealer and i sold Andy Warhol. (too soon) is a look behind the scenes of an art dealers life. This is really the story of one particular Andy Warhol painting that Polsky chased for many years and finally acquired it. It’s a fairly quick read and captivating. Edit: rereading this one this holiday season 2021. 🙂
The Man with a Blue Scarf is the story of the author sitting for a portrait by the great figure painter Lucian Freud. The portrait sittings went on for months and during the long painting sessions much was revealed not only about Freud’s life but about many other modern artists that were woven into his stories. I really felt like I was right there in Freud’s studio while reading this book.
The $12 Million Dollar Shark is a book on the economics of the contemporary art market. It’s about high priced contemporary art and evening auctions. It’s a wonderfully entertaining glimpse into the most expensive segment of the contemporary art world.
Books about Art ForgerS
I am fascinated by forgers. Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is the story of a working class kid from New Jersey who learned how to make flawless forgeries and perfected his talent as the years went by. Ken Perenyi raked in riches forging masterpieces. His flawless works convinced even the most qualified experts. Caveat Emptor reveals the ironies and hypocrisies in the art world, plus an explanation of just exactly how Perenyi managed to pull it off. I have read this book twice already and will read it again.
Another book about forgery that is wonderful and fascinating. Provenance is the story of a man who (brilliantly) actually gave his forgeries legitimate provenance by rewriting history in the form of old catalogues. It’s the story of how this man started, with an artist as his accomplice, and how he was eventually caught. Based on fact.
Books about Old Master Artists
Rembrandt’s Whore is the fascinating tale of the lives of Rembrandt and his 20 year old mistress Hendrickje Stoffels, as related through Stoffels eyes and thoughts. This well researched book takes you back to the 17th Century and you feel like you are walking the cobblestone streets in Amsterdam.
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a story about the famous painter Vermeer told through the eyes of the 16 year old Griet, who inspired the painting in the title. Griet’s life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius and she is immortalized in canvas and oil. Another book that is so well written that you feel like you’re in 17th Century Holland. This is an older book but I’m including it because it’s a classic and a great book that just about any artist would enjoy.
just Beautiful stories about artists
The Madonnas of Leningrad. A Russian woman, Marina, recounts her time of seeking refuge in the Hermitage Museum (in then Leningrad, now St. Petersburg) as the German’s seige of the city began in 1941. It’s a story about the employees at the museum trying to save the precious art in the museum from the German onslaught and at the same time working to save themselves. This book is poetry, it is so beautifully written.
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. Sara de Vos was a painter in the Dutch Golden Age, the 17th century. Through a forgery of one of her paintings, lives are brought together in the 20th century. This book bounces back and forth between the 17th and 21st centuries seamlessly with absolutely beautiful descriptions of scenery.
I hope you’ve found my list of the best books for artists useful. I’ve read many many books about artists over the years and these are the ones that are my favorites. They are well written about a specific period, whether that’s the 1970’s or the 1670’s, they each have a fascinating story. And they are all beautifully written.