Shannon Recommends: Art History Books (Part One)

shannon recommends art history

Hello everybody! 🙂 I’ve decided to start a new series of posts on my blog called Shannon Recommends, in which I’ll take one category/subcategory of books (i.e. literary historical fiction, 1920s classics) and recommend some books to you that fit in that particular genre. I’m hoping that this series will be a fun way to get some of my favorite books out to you in a shorter, faster format than full-length book reviews (because let’s be real here, full-length book reviews take a long time to write!!).

If you weren’t already aware, one of my biggest interests outside reading is art history. In particular, I love collecting and reading art history books, and I’m always getting requests on my Instagram account to showcase some of my favorite art history books. I have way too many to fit all in one post, so this will be Part One of a two or three part series (I haven’t decided yet) in which I tell you about some of my favorite art history books and what they look like. Without further ado, let’s get to the books! 🙂

FullSizeRender (38)Title: The Treasures of Monet

Author: Michael Howard

Publisher: Andre Deutsch Limited

Length: 63 pages

Date published: 2013

I received The Treasures of Monet as a Christmas present from my grandparents last year, and it is quite easily the most gorgeous book on this list. Published in partnership with the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, The Treasures of Monet is a thorough look at the life and work of the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who is well known for paintings such as Woman with a Parasol (1875) and The Water Lily Pond (1899). This book looks not only at Monet’s life but at the whole artistic scene in Paris during the mid-nineteenth century, and the text is filled with interesting tidbits about painters like Edouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, writers like Charles Baudelaire and Émile Zola, and overall looks at The Paris Salon and café society. Also, as any good art history book should, each and every page is filled with gorgeous pictures – there are over 150 color images of paintings both by Monet and his contemporaries.FullSizeRender (39)

One of the most interesting things about The Treasures of Monet, however, is that it includes twelve removable facsimile documents pertaining to Monet’s life, documents ranging from the registration of Monet’s baptism in 1841 to early sketches of some of his most famous paintings. These documents really add another dimension to the book and your overall reading experience.

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Monet is definitely one of the more widely-recognized artists in popular culture, so if you’re not familiar with art history or don’t know where to start with your art history collection I highly recommend giving this book a go. It gives lots of interesting information about Monet and the time period without being overly detailed or complicated, and the entire book is absolutely stunning. If you’re interested, here are the links to buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is a little bit pricey (as are many art history books), but entirely worth the money in my opinion.

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FullSizeRender (34)Title: Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings

Authors: Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger

Publisher: Taschen

Length: Volume I-299 pages; Volume II-740 pages

Date Published: 1993

Almost everyone, even if they have no interest in art and have never been to an art museum in their life, has heard of Van Gogh. He’s frequently referenced in popular culture as the crazy ginger artist who cut off his ear (he was even in an episode of Doctor Who!) and so, if you don’t know where to start with art history, the life and works of Van Gogh is probably a pretty good bet.

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This two volume set covers the entire life and the complete works of Vincent van Gogh. This is a lot of material to cover in one book, hence why the total page count is so long. Volume I, which is the shorter of the two, covers Van Gogh’s life from his birth in 1853 to 1888 during his stay in Paris. Volume II picks up right where Volume I leaves off, and covers the rest of Van Gogh’s life right up until his suicide in 1890. Both volumes combined have over 600 full color illustrations of Van Gogh’s paintings, and these images are accompanied by text written by the German art historians Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger.

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The text in these volumes is quite detailed and extremely thorough, so if you’re looking to buy your first art history book or are looking for an easy introduction to Van Gogh this isn’t the book for you. However, if you know a bit about Van Gogh and are interested about learning more about his life and his works, definitely check this one out. Unfortunately the exact editions that I have are no longer in print, however Taschen published a one volume version in 1997 that I’ve heard is just as good, if not better, than my 1993 two-volume set. You can find the 1997 edition on Amazon here.

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FullSizeRender (41)Title: The Impressionists at Leisure

Author: Pamela Todd

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Length: 176 pages

Date Published: 2007

The last book I have to recommend for you today is The Impressionists at Leisure by Pamela Todd, who has written quite a number of books on mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth century art. Unlike the other two books I’ve talked about thus far, The Impressionists at Leisure is an overall look at a variety of Impressionist painters rather than just a focused look at one artist, which makes it a perfect book for people looking to begin their art history book collection or for those who don’t know much about the Impressionist movement.

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Now, many Impressionist paintings depict their subjects enjoying a wide variety of leisure activities – for evidence of this, look at paintings such as The Ball at the Moulin de Gallette (1876) by Renoir or Music in the Tuileries (1862) by Manet. The Impressionists at Leisure is divided into seven chapters, with each one representing a different category of leisure activities popular during this time period, and looks at how different Impressionist painters depicted these popular past times. One chapter focuses solely on café society, bars, restaurants and dance halls, while another looks at boating and bathing, and another is dedicated to travelling and transport.

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I highly, highly recommend this book if you’re at all interested in learning more about the Impressionists or the social history of mid-nineteenth century France. The images (which includes not just paintings but photographs, posters, letters, etc.) are absolutely stunning, and the text is very well-written and easy to read. This is one of my absolute favorite art history books, and I’m very glad that it is a part of my collection. If you’re interested in getting your hands on your own copy, you can find it on Amazon here.

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So that’s it for the first part of my Shannon Recommends series! Are you a lover of art history? Would you guys like to see more art history themed posts in the future? Do you have any particular categories or genres that you’d liked to see in future recommendation posts? Let me know down in the comments. 🙂

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