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, a retrospective
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.
Prime, Art’s Next Generation
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.
Reading Andy Warhol
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 Paintings for the Future
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.
Artifacts Fascinating Facts about Art, Artists, and the Art World
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.
Great women artists
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.
- de KooningThis one is a bit harder to find but it is the most comprehensive look of his work (it accompanied his 2011 MoMA show!)Shop
- PrimeFeaturing young artists!A recent favorite, this book features exclusively artists born after 1980! An under 40 list of the art world, if you will.Shop
- Reading Andy WarholIt’s fun seeing another side of Andy Warhol’s talents… book covers!Shop
- Andy Warhol: Love Sex & DesireA (big) book of Warhol’s more seductive drawings celebrating male beauty. I will warn you that there are a lot of penises. 😉Shop
- Hilma af KlintHilma was one of the trailblazers of modern art; we just found out a little bit too late.Shop
- Phaidon ArtifactsA favorite gift to give!This little book is packed with little art related fun facts and trivia. It’s smart, clever, and a great gift.Shop
- Great Women ArtistsThis is the most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists ever to be published. It features more than 400 artistsShop
- Between Worlds: The Art of Bill TraylorBill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853. This is a look at his art and also his life experiences.Shop
- Matisse Cut-outsOne of my favorites. I find new inspiration from it every time I pick it up.Shop
Andy Warhol, From A to B and Back again
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.
Damien hirst Cherry Blossoms
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”).
Painting Beyond Pollock
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: Making past present
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.
In Shadows I Boogie: Harland Miller
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).
Jean-Michel Basquiat. 40th Ed.
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.
- Andy Warhol From A to B and Back AgainThis is the first book to examine Andy Warhol’s entire work; from his commercial work (1950s) to paintings of the eighties.Shop
- Hirst’s Cherry BlossomsThis is a very pretty, oversized book. I love being able to understand a bit more behind the paintings (which Hirst describes as “garish and messy and fragile”).Shop
- Painting Beyond PollockThis explores how and why painting has surged in popularity since Jackson Pollcok and the other abstract expressionists.Shop
- Cy Twombly: Making Past PresentThis book explores Cy Twombly’s works as well as his relationship with the past, + more classical works.Shop
- In Shadows I Boogie: Harland MillerI am such a fan of Harland Miller’s clever book-inspired paintings. They are irreverent and fun.Shop
- Jean-Michel Basquiat. 40th Ed.Shop
Peter Lindbergh On Fashion Photography
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 Style
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 glamour… 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 PHotographs 1946 – 2004
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 catalogue of his work, including 125 reproductions of his greatest works. and some of his most famous portraits.
- Peter Lindbergh On Fashion PhotographyThis is one of my favorite, most glamorous fashion photography books. Over 300 photographs from Lindbergh’s career.Shop
- Slim Aarons StyleI have all of Slim Aarons books and this one is my favorite as it focuses on his glamorous clients’ style.Shop
- Richard Avedon PhotographsAn incredible catalogue of the work of one of my favorite fashion photographers.Shop
- Stoppers: Photos from my Life at VogueOne of my favorite collections of fashion and beauty editorial photos.Shop
- Arthur Elgort: The Big PictureElgort’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.Shop
- Annie Leibovitz: WonderlandAnna Wintour has called her “America’s greatest living photographic portraitist,” which says everything you need to know.Shop
Stoppers: Photographs from my life at vogue
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.
Arthur Elgort: The big picture
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.
Wonderland by Annie Leibovitz
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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I also wish I had studied art history. I’ve taken a few classes through the Guggenheim on different aspects of modern and contemporary art and love getting to learn more. I already have maybe too many books, but am very tempted by the Matisse cut-outs and Hilma af Klimt books (love them both). One art book I really enjoy is Vivian Maier Street Photographer; her story is interesting as well.
Oh thank you for the rec, I will check that out.
What a fun post for a dreary day in Atlanta! I majored in art history so this brings a lot of joy. Always grateful to keep learning more. Art + books make a lovely combination!
I agree! Happy you enjoyed the post!
I moved last year and inadvertently created a new habit. I keep an art book open at the end of my kitchen counter and every day I turn a page or two. It’s my featured piece that I look at when I drink coffee, talk on the phone, etc. A bit like those page-a-day calendars. I love art books but they often just sat on my shelves getting dusty and now they are an active part of my day and visible part of my home.
I love this so much!!!!
It straddles art/fashion, but I love the Lilly Pulitzer Assouline book. It shows a lot of the prints and the stories behind them and is as bright and colorful and cheery as you’d imagine. https://www.lillypulitzer.com/assouline-book-standard-edition/003528.html
(I just learned googling that, that Assouline is a brand, not just the site’s name for the book, and now I am also obsessed with Assouline.)
Also, I am glad I got to that Andy Warhol exhibit at the Whitney too!! I also remember it was like 15 degrees out and I do NOT miss that part of living in NYC!
Oh I love that! And yes! Assouline is the best!!!!
Haha I don’t miss the New York cold a bit either.