Some of my favorite non-fiction book recommendations for continuing your art education

Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell
by Deborah Solomon
(and you think you have problems)

The Girl With the Gallery: Edith Gregor Halpert And the Making of the Modern Art Market
by Lindsay Pollock
I’m reading this right now. I’m only a little more than halfway through (it’s dense!), but I can heartily recommend it. Halpert was way ahead of her time–thank heavens!

I Bought Andy Warhol
by Richard Polsky
As I said in an earlier post: lots of juicy gossip about the New York artworld.

Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X

by Deborah Davis
A wonderful look at how the portrait artist works with clients and fits into society.

Up next on my shelves:
de Kooning: An American Master
by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan and winner of The Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Critics Circle Award

Still in the queue . . .

Close Reading: Chuck Close and the Artist Portrait
by Martin Friedman
Lots of good stuff here, but it's dense. The pictures are great.

The Unknown Matisse
by Hillary Spurling
Dang! This has been on my shelf for years and I’m a huge Matisse fan. Why can’t I get past chapter one?

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18 thoughts on “Some of my favorite non-fiction book recommendations for continuing your art education”

  1. The Glass Castle, by Geraldine Brooks, based on her life, became a writer , (obviously I guess)…great read…(talk about starving artist…)

  2. My recommendations would have to be: The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell – a fascinating collection giving an intellectual insight into the art and theory of the time. I Send You this Cadmium Red, by John Berger and John Christie – a great visual conversation between two brilliant men.

  3. Thank you for the book recommendations from everyone. I would heartily recommend “Elaine and Bill” by Lee Hall. I started the de Kooning book mentioned and couldn’t get into it but it might have been the timing. I’ll try again. Thanks, Jan

  4. Ohhhhh-I LOVE books. I just finished Susan Landauer’s “Elmer Bischoff: The Ethics of Paint”—it was quite interesting & was a catalog from an exhibition mas well, so lots of great pictures. Here are some of my “old fathfuls”–books I have read & re-read–some many times. Musa Mayer “Night Studio: A Memior pf Philip Guston” Louise Nevelson “Dawns and Dusks” Henry Miller “Paint as you Like and Die Happy” Patricia Hills “Alice Neel” Nicholas Fox Weber “Balthus” Janet Kaplan “Unexpected Journeys: The Art & Life of Remedios Varo” “Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr” James Elkins “What Painting Is” Mark Levy “Technicians of Ecstasy: Shamanism and the Modern Artist Enjoy!

  5. Can’t resist chiming in with Jonathan Harr’s “The Lost Painting – the Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece”. The New York Times wrote: “Captivating…the real-life story of the rediscovery in the early 1990s of one of the Italian artist Caravaggio’s most sought-after paintings…Harr does a dexterous job of building narrative tension.” This book read like a thriller! I was given it on Christmas Eve 2007 and I refused to stop reading on Christmas Day – barely managed to make dinner. Enjoy!

  6. I recommend the three memoirs written by sculptor Anne Truitt–Daybook, Turn and Prospect. I’ve read and re-read them at different times in my life, finding that her experiences so often resonated with corresponding stages in my own art life. Not that I’ve had her famous career!! But that isn’t the main narrative anyway–instead it’s the little stories and observations about life as a artist, the studio struggles and equally so her life outside the studio, her feelings surrounding exhibitions and sales of her work. Her descriptions of being a young mother while determinedly making art were very inspiring to me in my 30s, for example. She wrote in a very personal, warm but always professional voice. I read Daybook and loved it before I ever saw a single one of her sculptures, so familiarity with her art is not a prerequisite.

  7. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Rebecca: Thanks for another recommendation. Boy, I ordered 5 books (or 6!) today and I’ll be well stocked for the rest of the year, but what a great resource everyone has been. And, Rebecca, this one is totally new to me.

  8. Alyson, the (daunting) books by Spurling about Matisse are the subject of my posts right now. I am reviewing the books, in case you want to see if they’re worth the effort. My answer to that: yes!

  9. penelope rothfield

    If you are a painter I think you would love to read “Sean Scully: Resistance and Persistence, Selected Writings” ed by Florence Ingleby and “Inside The Painter’s Studio” by Joe Fig. In the “Painter’s Studio” by Fig, there is a quote from Julie Mehretu that I find very inspiring–she said, “Really follow the work and go really deeply and honestly into your work and yourself as an individual. Your work should take care of you. Make really good and really interesting work and go after that instead of trying to find some formula to guide your work by. You are the best guide for your work and its path.” It is very good to read these words esp. after a critique…I agree with the tip of the day (work at for 15 minutes in your studio)–EVERY DAY I do something even if it is just reading about art–I do something to stay connected and it helps me a great deal…Thanks for your blog and is very useful.

  10. Alyson Stanfield

    Penelope: The Scully book is a good one. I haven’t read it cover-to-cover, but it has good stuff in it. His retrospective is still one of my favorites of all time. I’ll have to check out The Painter’s Studio. I’m a fan of Mehretu’s work.

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