20 best books on paintings – 2023 reading list & recommendations

If you’re a lover of art and want to dive deep into the world of paintings, then you’re in luck! We’ve curated a list of the 20 best books about paintings that will transport you into the vibrant and mesmerizing world of art. Whether you’re an aspiring artist, a seasoned art enthusiast, or simply curious about the stories behind famous masterpieces, these paintings books are a must-have in your collection. Get ready to embark on a journey of artistic exploration and uncover the hidden gems of the art world.

The Story of Art

by E.H. Gombrich

E.H. Gombrich’s masterpiece, The Story of Art, is not just a book about paintings, but a captivating journey through the fascinating world of art. This timeless classic takes readers on an exploration of the rich tapestry of human creativity, from ancient cave drawings to modern masterpieces. Gombrich’s vivid storytelling and engaging prose bring each brushstroke to life, as he unravels the secrets and stories behind the world’s greatest works of art. It is a book on paintings that goes beyond mere analysis, delving into the emotions, ideas, and historical context that shaped these extraordinary creations. Whether you are a seasoned art enthusiast or a curious beginner, this paintings book is an essential companion on any artistic odyssey.

The Lives of the Artists

by Giorgio Vasari

The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari is a captivating book about the world of art and its pioneers. This masterpiece of art history takes readers on a journey through the lives and works of renowned painters, sculptors, and architects. Considered the first book on paintings, Vasari’s vivid descriptions and insightful analysis bring the artwork to life on every page. From the Renaissance masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael to lesser-known artists, Vasari provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these creative geniuses. Whether you are an art enthusiast or simply curious about the world of paintings, this book is a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration.

Ways of Seeing

by John Berger

Ways of Seeing by John Berger is not your average book about paintings. It is a mind-bending exploration into the world of art that will transform the way you see and understand visual culture. In this groundbreaking book, Berger delves into the power dynamics, social constructs, and historical context behind the creation and interpretation of artworks. He challenges traditional notions of art and invites readers to question the authority and meaning attributed to paintings. With thought-provoking essays and striking images, this book on paintings ignites a new way of looking at art, making it accessible and relevant to all. Prepare to have your perspective shattered and your creative imagination awakened by this extraordinary paintings book.

The Art Book

by Editors of Phaidon

The Art Book is a captivating compendium that takes readers on an extraordinary journey through the history of art. This remarkable book, crafted by the Editors of Phaidon, is not your average book on paintings. It is a meticulously curated collection of over 600 artworks, spanning from ancient cave paintings to contemporary masterpieces.

With each turn of the page, readers are treated to exquisite reproductions of renowned artworks, accompanied by concise and insightful descriptions. This book about paintings delves into the stories behind the brushstrokes, offering a deeper understanding of the artists and their creative process. From the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa to the vibrant colors of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, this paintings book brings art to life, making it accessible and enjoyable for art enthusiasts of all levels.

The Painted Word

by Tom Wolfe

The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe is a groundbreaking exploration of the contemporary art world, unveiling the hidden truths behind the canvas. This captivating book delves into the realm of modern art, dissecting the inner workings of the art scene with wit and sharp analysis. Wolfe challenges the notion of art for art’s sake and exposes the power structures and trends that dictate the value and significance of artworks. As a maverick journalist, Wolfe fearlessly uncovers the pretentiousness and absurdity of the art world, revealing how critics and tastemakers shape the narrative around paintings. With his trademark style and acerbic wit, Wolfe’s book on paintings is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of art and culture, providing a fresh perspective on the ever-evolving world of contemporary art.

The Shock of the New

by Robert Hughes

The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes is a captivating book about the world of art and its evolution throughout history. This groundbreaking book on paintings explores the profound impact artists and their creations have had on society. From the Renaissance to modern art movements, Hughes takes readers on a journey through time, unraveling the complexities and controversies surrounding famous works of art. With his insightful analysis and engaging storytelling, Hughes brings to life the power and significance of art in our lives. Whether you are an art enthusiast or simply curious about the world of paintings, this thought-provoking book about paintings is sure to captivate and inspire.

The Art of Rivalry

by Sebastian Smee

The Art of Rivalry by Sebastian Smee is a captivating book about the fascinating world of artistic rivalries. This extraordinary book delves into the intense and complex relationships between some of the most renowned painters in history. Smee explores the intricate dynamics between four pairs of artists – Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. Through vivid storytelling and meticulous research, Smee uncovers the deep connections, rivalries, and influences that shaped the evolution of modern art. This captivating book on paintings offers a unique perspective on the creative process, unveiling the power of competition and collaboration in the world of art. The Art of Rivalry is a must-read for art lovers and anyone curious about the inner workings of artistic genius.

The Hare with Amber Eyes

by Edmund de Waal

The Hare with Amber Eyes is a mesmerizing tale that takes readers on a remarkable journey through time and across continents. At its heart, it is a family memoir, but it is also a book about art, history, and the enduring power of objects. Edmund de Waal, a world-renowned ceramic artist, delves into the captivating story of his family’s collection of 264 Japanese netsuke, small intricately carved sculptures. These tiny objects, passed down through generations, become a lens into the lives of de Waal’s ancestors, spanning from 19th-century Paris to Vienna and eventually to London. This beautiful book on art and family history weaves together narratives of love, loss, and the significance of objects, making it a must-read for anyone captivated by the enchantment of paintings or historical artifacts.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

by Vincent van Gogh

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh is an extraordinary collection of correspondence that provides a unique insight into the mind of one of history’s most enigmatic artists. This captivating book about paintings delves into the thoughts, struggles, and artistic journey of Vincent van Gogh, offering readers an intimate glimpse into his creative process. Through these letters, Van Gogh’s passion, intensity, and unwavering dedication to his craft shine brightly, allowing us to appreciate the depth and emotion behind his iconic artworks. Whether you are an art lover, a history enthusiast, or simply curious about the life of this legendary artist, this paintings book is an absolute must-read.

The Art of Travel

by Alain de Botton

The Art of Travel is a captivating book that explores the essence of traveling and its connection to the human experience. Alain de Botton, the author, takes readers on a philosophical journey, using a variety of mediums such as literature, poetry, and even paintings to convey his ideas. This unique blend of storytelling and analysis allows de Botton to delve into the depths of what makes a journey meaningful, and how we can find beauty in the smallest of things. Whether you are an avid traveler or simply someone who appreciates the wonders of the world, this book is a must-read. It will leave you yearning for new adventures and a deeper understanding of the art of travel.

The Private Lives of the Impressionists

by Sue Roe

Welcome to the world of the Impressionists, where art comes alive on the canvas! If you are a fan of art or simply intrigued by the lives of influential artists, then “The Private Lives of the Impressionists” by Sue Roe is the perfect book for you. This captivating masterpiece takes you on a journey through the lives and works of some of the most renowned painters in history.

Within the pages of this fascinating book on paintings, Roe delves into the personal lives, struggles, and triumphs of the Impressionists. She unveils the stories behind the strokes of their brushes, providing a glimpse into the passionate and often tumultuous lives they led. From Claude Monet’s enchanting water lilies to Edgar Degas’ captivating ballet scenes, each artist’s unique style and vision are explored in detail.

But this isn’t just a book about paintings. Roe’s narrative goes beyond the canvas, unveiling the social and political climate of the time. She paints a vivid picture of 19th-century Paris, a city buzzing with artistic fervor and a desire for change. Through her meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Roe brings to life the bohemian salons, bustling cafes, and art exhibitions that shaped the Impressionist movement.

Featuring a cast of characters including Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Pissarro, “The Private Lives of the Impressionists” is a mesmerizing journey into the lives of these artistic geniuses. Roe’s vivid descriptions and rich historical context transport you to the studios where masterpieces were born and the galleries where they were exhibited.

So, if you’re craving a captivating paintings book that not only showcases the stunning works of the Impressionists but also delves into the fascinating lives behind them, look no further. “The Private Lives of the Impressionists” is a must-read for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Prepare to be immersed in a world of color, passion, and artistic brilliance!

The Art of Loving

by Erich Fromm

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm is a captivating and thought-provoking book about the essence of human connection and the intricate dynamics of love. In this remarkable book about paintings, Fromm explores love as an art form, emphasizing the importance of active participation and dedication. He delves into the various forms love can take, from romantic love to the love of oneself, family, and humanity as a whole. Fromm’s insightful perspective examines love as a skill that can be learned and cultivated, rather than simply a feeling. With his eloquent prose, he skillfully paints a vivid picture of the complexities and beauty of human relationships, making this paintings book a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of love and its transformative power.

The Art of Color

by Johannes Itten

The Art of Color by Johannes Itten is a captivating book about the world of colors. This masterpiece explores the fascinating and vibrant realm of hues, shades, and tones, making it an essential read for anyone passionate about the art of painting. Itten, a renowned Swiss painter and teacher, delves deep into the theory and psychology of colors, offering invaluable insights on how to create harmonious and impactful compositions. His book on paintings showcases a vast array of color combinations, inspiring artists to experiment and push the boundaries of their creativity. Whether you’re a professional painter or a hobbyist, this captivating paintings book is a must-have addition to your collection, unlocking the secrets behind the mesmerizing power of colors.

The Art of War

by Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu is not your typical book about paintings. In fact, it has nothing to do with art at all. Instead, it is a timeless military strategy manual that has been revered for centuries. Written over 2,500 years ago, this ancient Chinese masterpiece offers profound insights into tactics, leadership, and the art of winning battles. Sun Tzu’s teachings, filled with wisdom and cunning, are applicable not only in warfare but also in various aspects of life. This paintings book, metaphorically speaking, is a masterpiece of its own, guiding readers through the complexities of strategy and offering invaluable lessons in the pursuit of victory.

The Art of Happiness

by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler

The Art of Happiness is a captivating book that delves into the profound teachings of the Dalai Lama XIV, combined with the insights of psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler. This enlightening collaboration explores the essence of happiness through the lens of Buddhist philosophy and psychological science.

Within its pages, this extraordinary book uncovers the art of finding happiness amidst the complexities of modern life. The Dalai Lama’s wisdom shines through as he shares his thoughts on love, compassion, and the pursuit of inner peace. Cutler’s expertise adds a unique perspective, offering practical advice on how to apply these teachings to everyday challenges.

Whether you’re seeking guidance on overcoming anxiety and stress, cultivating meaningful relationships, or simply gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, this book is a masterful guide that will inspire and uplift. The Art of Happiness is not just a book about paintings, but a transformative journey towards a more fulfilling and joyous existence.

The Art of Fielding

by Chad Harbach

Discover the captivating world of baseball and the power of art in ‘The Art of Fielding’ by Chad Harbach. This extraordinary novel intertwines the lives of five characters who find themselves connected by their shared passion for America’s favorite pastime. But this is not just a book about baseball; it is a symphony of emotions, aspirations, and the pursuit of greatness.

With poetic prose and vivid storytelling, Harbach beautifully paints a portrait of friendship, love, and the complexities of human ambition. It is a book on paintings that explores the depths of the human soul, revealing the intricate brushstrokes of each character’s journey towards self-discovery.

Through the pages of this paintings book, readers will be transported to the idyllic Westish College, where Henry Skrimshander, a talented shortstop, must navigate the pressures and expectations placed upon him. As Henry’s story unfolds, we witness the transformative power of art, both on and off the field, and the extraordinary impact it can have on our lives.

‘The Art of Fielding’ is a masterpiece that will leave you breathless and yearning for more. Whether you are a fan of baseball or simply appreciate the beauty of a well-crafted story, this book about paintings is a must-read that will resonate with you long after you turn the final page.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain is not your typical paintings book. It’s a heartwarming and unique tale told from the perspective of Enzo, a wise and philosophical dog. Enzo’s owner, Denny Swift, is a race car driver and together they navigate life’s ups and downs, where love, loss, and the pursuit of dreams intertwine.

Through Enzo’s eyes, readers gain a deeper understanding of the human experience and the beauty of art, as he compares life to a book on paintings. With captivating storytelling and a touch of humor, author Garth Stein delves into themes of loyalty, determination, and the power of unconditional love.

Prepare to embark on an emotional journey as Enzo guides you through this extraordinary book about paintings that will leave you inspired and contemplating the true meaning of life.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker is a book about paintings that will take you on a mesmerizing journey of love, mystery, and self-discovery. This enchanting tale follows Julia, a successful New York lawyer, as she embarks on a quest to uncover the hidden secrets of her father’s past in Burma.

As she delves deeper into her father’s mysterious disappearance, Julia encounters a captivating love story that unfolds like a masterpiece on a canvas. The vivid descriptions and rich storytelling transport you to the lush landscapes of Burma, where every page is painted with emotion and longing.

Through the power of storytelling, Sendker weaves a tale that explores the complexities of human connection, the resilience of the human spirit, and the profound impact of love. This book on paintings will captivate your senses, leaving you with a renewed appreciation for the beauty found not only in art but also in the depths of the human heart.

The Art of Possibility

by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

The Art of Possibility is a captivating book about the world of possibility, written by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This extraordinary book is not just another book on paintings, but a masterpiece that explores the limitless potential within each of us. With their unique perspectives, the authors guide readers on a transformative journey through the canvas of life, encouraging us to embrace creativity, imagination, and a positive mindset. They offer inspiring stories, practical techniques, and thought-provoking exercises that challenge conventional thinking and open doors to new possibilities. This paintings book is a powerful reminder that we have the ability to create our own reality and shape our future. So, dive into this remarkable book about paintings and unlock the hidden potential that lies within you.

The Art of Seduction

by Robert Greene

The Art of Seduction is a captivating book by Robert Greene that unveils the secrets behind the art of seduction. It is not just another book about attracting romantic partners, but rather a masterpiece that delves into the psychology of seduction in all aspects of life. Just as a skilled artist captivates us with brushstrokes on canvas, this book on paintings will teach you how to captivate people with your words, actions, and charm. With Greene’s profound insights and historical examples, you will learn the power of seductive strategies, manipulation, and seductive character types. Whether you are seeking to ignite a romantic flame or simply want to master the art of influencing others, this paintings book will unlock the secrets to becoming a seductive mastermind.


In conclusion, these 20 best books about paintings are a must-have for art enthusiasts and collectors alike. Whether you are looking to dive into the history of famous masterpieces or gain insights into the techniques and styles of renowned artists, these books offer a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration. From the vibrant brushstrokes of Van Gogh to the enigmatic smiles of the Mona Lisa, each page brings you closer to the world of art. So, grab a cup of coffee, curl up with one of these books, and embark on a journey through the mesmerizing world of paintings!