Summer Reading – Novels About Artists

Summer is for light reading by the pool or on the deck, but you can still enjoy lots of books while maintaining a tie to your art business.
Here is a list of novels that have artists as their main character.

My Favorites

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
Spending by Mary Gordon
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Others I've Read In Past Few Years

The Only True Genius in the Family by Jeannie Nash
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore
A weird romp (as only Christopher Moore can do) with van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and others.

Novels I Read Long Ago

I read these many many years ago, but enjoyed them enough to keep them around.
Masterpiece by former Metropolitan director Thomas Hoving
World-class museum directors vie for the acquisition of a famed painting by Velazquez.
Masterclass by Morris West
Murder mystery in the art world.

On My Bed Stand To Read Next

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
This novel is built around the real-life 1990 theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Others Recommend

Two or more people on my Facebook page have recommended these books.
Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland
Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Thomas Crown Affair by Evan Lee Heyman
You can read all of the other novels that were mentioned in the comments on this Facebook post.
What books of fiction about art, artists, the artist-life have you enjoyed?

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39 thoughts on “Summer Reading – Novels About Artists”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Right after I got my copy in the mail, my husband reminded me that he had a copy of it. I guess I’ll be giving one away as a gift.

  1. To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. Lily Briscoe is a painter whose inner dialogue, stream of consciousness, and point of view are central to the narrative of the story, though not the outward action/drama of it. Through her character, Woolf brilliantly and eloquently portrays the inner struggles, inspirations and moods of a creative and introverted personality.

  2. I’m reading the Art Forger right now. Wasn’t too sure about it at first, but now I can’t wait to get to the end and see how all turns out. And for a non-painter, I find the descriptions of process nice, too.

  3. Ann Marie Scott

    For really light FUN reading I love all the Hailey Lind Art mysteries: Arsenic and Old Paint, Feint of Art, Brush with Death, Shooting Gallery…they are just terrific. Wish she would write more!

  4. Lust for Life and the Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone. highly recommend them 🙂 And thank you, Alyson for a great list for summer!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Those are pretty dense, aren’t they, Yuri? His other one (about Pissarro) is Depths of Glory, which has been on my shelf for decades. Really. Decades! Never read it.

    2. I read “Depths of Glory” and really enjoyed it. I think it was revealing for me to think of how beloved the impressionists are now, but during their lives, they had very little recognition and struggled so much. Big book, but I liked it.

  5. How about, “The American Painter Emma Dial,” by Samantha Peale? She assisted, in real life, for Jeff Koons before novelizing the experience.

  6. Thanks Alyson – great list! I will have to pick up some of these. I have read An Object Of Beauty and really enjoyed it too. I wanted to add “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri. Amazing tidbits about art and life. I am currently reading it as part of a Book Club for artists that I started for anyone who may want to join us at

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Leah: Not a work of fiction, but definitely must-have. And I hope others check out your book club.

  7. I read a book loosely based on the Canadian painter Emily Carr a number of years ago. I wish I could remember the title! I think it had the word “Forest” in it. Has anyone else read that one? I remembered liking it. I feel silly posting it, when I can’t remember the title, but I am hoping someone else will have read it.
    Also, Ursula Hegi’s book Stones from the River. The main character isn’t an artist, but I vaguely remember there being an artist in the book. It’s a good read, in any case.

  8. just finished How Georgia Became O’Keeffe by Karen Karbo…loved it, i learned a bit more about O’Keeffe and Karbos writing style is lively and funny! A very fast read!

  9. About a year ago I read a fascinating true story about an FBI agent that headed a division to catch art thieves and forgers. I can’t remember the title or author’s name but will do some research. His training in art was unique also.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Yep. Is it The Rescue Artist? (Non-fiction is a different post and much vaster a topic!)

  10. One author that was mentioned at least twice on that fb thread that you didn’t include was Jane Urquhart. “The Underpainter” and “The Stone Carvers” are just two brilliant literary fiction offerings by an author that is a poet and married to an artist – so artists appear often in her work. In my opinion, she is one of the best. The writing is artful and moving.
    “The Stone Carvers” was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, was long listed for the Mann Booker Prize and “the Underpainter” won the Giller Prize. I highly recommend both having read many of the suggested titles.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Michelle: Thanks for adding this! I assure you that my oversight was unintentional. There were a lot of comments on that post and I tried to be thorough, but apparently failed.

  11. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him by Danielle Ganek, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd, Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, and a really beautiful book – Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman. There is also a good young adult graphic novel series called The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.

  12. Lots of enticing ideas from everyone. Here’s mine: ‘The Way to Paradise: A Novel’ by Mario Vargas Llosa. About the life of Gauguin and his grandmother the social feminist Flora Tristan

  13. If you like mysteries, Dick Francis has a couple of books that weave artists into the horse racing world – Shattered features a glass blower and To the Hilt features a painter who lives in Scotland.

  14. Pingback: Summer Reading List: Art-Inspired Novels for Everyone! « Collage Your World

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