At the time of writing, I only have three (three!) months left of my undergraduate degree. The last three years have been a haze of essays, sculptures, and library days, with a few great books folded between.

As I can already feel myself feeling nostalgic for pouring over impossibly convoluted texts in the name of Art History, I thought I’d do a round-up of the best books about art (and thinking about art) that I’ve read throughout my degree.

Ways of Seeing – John Berger


To say that this book is a cornerstone for Art History would be an understatement. As well as being possibly the most useful little book throughout my degree, Ways of Seeing is wonderfully accessible and easy to understand. The reason I love this book so much is simply because Berger opened up History of Art to the masses, showing that it was something interesting, relevant to modern society, and something very much open for anyone to learn about and discuss.

Buy it here.





The Story of Art -E.H. Gombrich


In a similar vein to the previous book, The Story of Art also gives an incredibly comprehensive introduction to the history of art, as well as being easy to understand while still dealing with very complex topics. I read this book cover to cover before starting my degree (admittedly I did look a little strange lugging around my hardback version for ‘holiday reading’) and referred to it during almost every essay and exam season.

Buy it here.




The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rothschild


As the only work of fiction on the list, The Improbability of Love is something a little different. It’s a satirical take on the art world, involving the auction of a lost painting, Nazi plots, themed cooking, and an ex-rent boy that occasionally dresses as Marie Antoinette. The author is well immersed in the art world herself, so even though the characters are completely over-blown, the book is extremely fun, very well researched, and still somehow very believable.

Buy it here.





A Grand Design – Edited by Brenda Richardson and Malcolm Baker


I will admit, compared to everything else on the list, this is a bit of a wild card. Even before I came to university I was obsessed with the V&A, so much so that by this time last year I had decided to write my dissertation on its entrance. This book has not only been an invaluable research piece, but is an extremely interesting and passionate history of the museum, with reflections on privilege, class, and Britishness, as well as some beautiful illustrations.

Buy it here.



Artemisia: The Story of a Battle for Greatness – Alexandra Lapierre


Simply put, this is a biography of one of my heroes. Artemisia was a Baroque painter with a fascinating upbringing as the daughter of another successful artist, who painted common biblical or mythological scenes with a distinctly feminist edge. She painted for the Medici’s, was buddies with Galileo (!) and was an amazing single mother to boot. This book also covers the misattribution of some of her work to her father, as well as her extremely public rape trail, meaning that this book reads almost like a piece of page-turning historical fiction.

Buy it here.




Art Made From Books – Alyson Kuhn


Books? Check. Art? Check. Gorgeous binding? Definitely! This book is all of my favourite things put together with love, alongside descriptions of sculptures so wonderful that I wish I could see every one of them in real life. A great coffee table book as well as an introduction to some inspiring contemporary artists, Art Made From Books makes a great gift or a treat for your own shelves.

Buy it here.




Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained – Susie Hodge


I fully admit that, until the second year of my degree, I despised almost all contemporary art. I’d written it off as ugly, pretentious, and unnecessary, but this book (as well as a fabulous second year module) helped to convert me. Using examples of high profile art from the last hundred years, Hodge explains the movement that the piece comes from, its exhibition history, and why it is considered ‘good art’.

Buy it here.





Although I could ramble on and on about a huge range of books about art, I thought these showed a great cross-section of books that I’ve loved and thumbed through the most over the past three years. If you have any recommendations for art books, please let me know in the comments!

Note: this post contains affiliate links for The Book Depository. If you buy anything through my link, I’ll earn 5% of the cost of what you bought (without costing you any extra).



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