Two of my greatest loves are art and books, so it makes sense that I have acquired quite a collection of art books! While I am grateful for the education I have (I was a finance major with a communications minor) there will always be a part of me that wishes I studied art history. For that reason, I spend hours reading my art books. My coffee table and bookshelves are always piled high. From fine arts to the history of art, contemporary art, and more, I devour them all. Art books are a wonderful source for both inspiration and education; There are so many great ones. Today I wanted to share a roundup of personal favorites. My taste tends toward modern art and photography; most of these artists are from the 20th century!
PS – if you enjoy this post, you might enjoy this list of the most stylish coffee table books.
My Favorite Art Books
De Kooning is one of my all time favorite artists and this (giant) book is a retrospective of his work over seven decades, from his early academic works in Holland through his more abstract paintings of the late 1980s. I’m currently reading his biography and as I read it I love alternating back to this book to look at his artwork.
I did a longer review of this book here but oooh, I absolutely love this book. It’s a newer release from Phaidon and I love that it focuses on younger artists (107 to be exact), none born before 1980. It is a who is who of the next big superstars in art.
This is one of my favorites because Andy Warhol was a man of so many talents. Did you know that he designed covers for large publishing companies? Hea lso created thematic booklets. This book is the first substantial presentation of his innovations in printed books.
Hilma af Klint fascinates me. (As an aside, I highly recommend watching the documentary Beyond the Visible). What I find so interesting is that when she died in 1944, she felt that the world wasn’t ready for her art, so she stipulated that it couldn’t be shown for another 20 years. Because her work had been kept hidden, we didn’t realize that it actually predates artists like Kandinsky, who’d been considered to be the trailblazers of modernist abstraction.
This is one of my favorite books to give as a gift as it is absolutely fascinating… packed with little fun facts, tidbits, and conversation starters. It’s a fun little book and it’s smart, too. Even the most seasoned art buff will learn something new from it.
This is the most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists ever to be published. It features more than 400 artists from over 50 countries, over five centuries. As someone who makes an effort to prioritize female artists in my own collection, I loved this, and I love seeing so many previously overlooked female artists gaining the recognition they deserve today.
I was lucky enough to get to see the Warhol exhibit at The Whitney in New York several years ago and I got this book when I went to that. This is the first book to examine his entire work. Looking at his commercial illustrations of the 1950s all the way through his paintings of the 1980s.
I try not to judge books by their cover but man, this is a very pretty book – I love the green fabric cover. I have been mesmerized by Damien Hirst’s Cherry Blossom paintings (I was lucky enough to snag a signed print when he did a release with HENI a couple years ago) and I love being able to page through this book, see them all together, and understand a bit more behind the paintings (which Hirst describes as “garish and messy and fragile”).
This is part art book, part history book. Morgan Falconer (an art historian and critic) explores how and why painting has surged in popularity since Jackson Pollcok and the other abstract expressionists of the 1940s-early 50s.
Cy Twombly is another one of my favorite artists. This contains reproductions of over 50 of his paintings, drawings, and sculptures… alongside classic works of art. It explores the relationship of his art with works of the past.
One of my good friends introduced me to British artist Harland Miller’s clever book-inspired canvases and I became an instant fan. He is just so clever, and this book covers nearly 20 years of his paintings (alongside essays by eminent art writers).
Basquiat is another favorite (and I love the Taschen 40 series). It’s tragic to think he only lived to 27 years old; and crazy to think of how much he accomplished in so little time. His name is now synonymous with the 80s. He was one of the first street artists (think of everyone he’s inspired today). I love the chapter format – it’s like reading a hybrid biography/coffee table blook.
This is one of my favorite, most glamorous fashion photography books. It gathers over 300 photographs from Lindbergh’s 40 year career as a fashion photographer. He shot all the big super models along with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Any time I want to feel inspired (or a bit more glamorous), I find myself paging through this book for inspiration.
Slim Aarons is one of my favorite photographers. I find his works (and his books!) to be wonderfully transportive, taking us back to an era of glitz and glamor… or as he said, “attractive people who were doing attractive things in attractive places.” While he didn’t technically photograph fashion (he’s even said, “I didn’t do fashion. I did the people in their clothes that became the fashion”), the people became the fashion, making this book an amazing source of inspiration from yesterday’s style icons.
Richard Avedon is one of my favorite fashion photographers as his specialty was capturing movement in photos of fashion, theater, and dance. His work is truly brilliant. This book is the first major retrospective of his work since his death in 2004. It’s an absolutely beautiful catalog of his work, including 125 reproductions of his greatest works. and some of his most famous portraits.
Phyllis Posnick has become synonymous with Vogue (working as the magazine’s Executive Fashion Editor from 1988 – 2018), particularly for her editorial fashion and beauty editorials. Her work can be shocking at times but that’s what works – I love her eye! The book features an incredible assortment of imagery from legendary photographers (along with Posnick’s personal memories of working at Vogue, plus a forward by Anna Wintour.
This is Elgort’s first comprehensive book, spanning his 50 year career. Elgort was influenced by a lifelong love of music and dance, which is reflected in his work. His work was in all of our favorite magazines, but he also shot incredible campaigns for the likes of Chanel, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent.
This is another gorgeous book of fashion photographs. Anna Wintour has called her “America’s greatest living photographic portraitist,” which says everything you need to know. This book contains 350 beautiful images (many, unpublished before this) of everyone from Cate Blanchett and Lady Gaga to Kate Moss and Nancy Pelosi.
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