Obelisk Art History

Recommended Reading

I read a lot of books while researching Obelisk’s essays. Below are some of my absolute favorites, from broad overviews of art history to obsessive niche explorations. Obelisk is an affiliate member with Amazon and Indiebound, so if you follow the links below to make purchases, I’ll earn a small kickback from qualifying purchases. It’s a great way to snag some excellent reading material and help support Obelisk at the same time.

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Gustave Courbet, a Biography, Recommended Reading

Gustave Courbet, a Biography

A thoughtful biography of the controversial Courbet by the historian Gerstle Mack. It's an old volume, and the artwork reproductions and in black and white, but it's cheap, and good.

amazon ↗
Man Ray, Self Portrait: An Autobiography, Recommended Reading

Man Ray, Self Portrait: An Autobiography

See this 20th century art world through the eyes of the mercurial Emanuel Radinsky, or as we know him: Man Ray, in a revealing and frank autobiography

amazon ↗
Ilya Repin, A Biography, Recommended Reading

Ilya Repin, A Biography

While this biography of Repin doesn't crawl inside the artist's mind in the way I hope for, it is a thorough volume with extremely high-quality reproductions of his artworks.

amazon ↗
Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Edo-Period Eccentric, Recommended Reading

Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Edo-Period Eccentric

This in-depth volume on Kuniyoshi is out of print and extremely hard to find. But here's the link, in case you get lucky and there's a rare copy in stock.

amazon ↗
To Myself: Notes on Life, Art and Artists, Recommended Reading

To Myself: Notes on Life, Art and Artists

There are many books on Odilon Redon, but I always find the best books on artists are the ones they write themselves. Learn how Redon saw the world, directly from his personal journals.

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Monet, The Triumph of Impressionism, Recommended Reading

Monet, The Triumph of Impressionism

Get the full story of a man devoted to the sublime sensation of seeing. A beautiful collection of artworks and insightful biography.

amazon ↗
Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman, Recommended Reading

Hieronymus Bosch, Painter and Draughtsman

The official catalogue raisonné by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project. This is it, y'all: the definitive book on Bosch

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Gustav Klimt, Art Nouveau Visionary, Recommended Reading

Gustav Klimt, Art Nouveau Visionary

A huge, ultra in-depth examination of Klimt's life and work. Not for the faint of heart, but if you want to dig into Klimt, this is your book.

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Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman, Recommended Reading

Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman

The ultimate behind-the-scenes tour, this book selects from David's 2000 known sketches and drawings to describe in detail the years-long process of creating a masterpiece.

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The Moment of Caravaggio, Recommended Reading

The Moment of Caravaggio

Why was Caravaggio obsessed with decapitation? Find out in this extremely deep investigation of Caravaggio's life, work, influence—and of course, enemies

amazon ↗
Bouguereau and America, Recommended Reading

Bouguereau and America

Bouguereau was a one of the top dogs of the French art world, but this unique book documents how and why his work absolutely exploded in the United States (insert bougie pun here)

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Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape, Recommended Reading

Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape

There are lot of books on Caspar David Friedrich, but Harvard's Joseph Leo Koerner goes deep, weaving the artist and his work into the tapestry of 19th century romanticism

amazon ↗
Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Recommended Reading

Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Kandinsky saw artwork as emerging from the subconscious, a breadcrumb trail of spiritual truths that if followed, would lead us up the metaphysical pyramid to transcendence. Big stuff, worth a read.

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Frida Kahlo, The Complete Paintings, Recommended Reading

Frida Kahlo, The Complete Paintings

For the first time, all 152 of Frida Kahlo's known artworks are collected in a single volume, with analysis, biography, and rare photos of the artist. The definitive book on Frida.

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Matisse on Art, Recommended Reading

Matisse on Art

Matisse was an intensely thoughtful artist, and luckily for us he described his theory and practice in writing. This volume collects 44 essays and interviews with the man who reinvented color.

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100 Artists' Manifestos, Recommended Reading

100 Artists' Manifestos

Manifestos are written when the world is a mess, humans are apathetic, and change is needed. Here are 100 examples to inspire your own.

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Gauguin's Intimate Journals, Recommended Reading

Gauguin's Intimate Journals

How problematic was this famously problematic artist? Gauguin holds nothing back in this egotistical, self-pitying memoir. Enjoy?

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The Romance of Scholar's Stones, Recommended Reading

The Romance of Scholar's Stones

Kemin Hu guides you through the unique vocabulary and history of Chinese stone collecting and appreciation. A beautiful, contemplative book

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Femme Fatale, Recommended Reading

Femme Fatale

How did the alluring femme fatale become one of culture's most enduring archetypes? This book's feminism is out of date, but it still provides an entry point into a deeply complex topic

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Diary of a Genius, Recommended Reading

Diary of a Genius

Salvador Dali was a furious tornado of creative energy (also a huge pervert). Crawl inside his depraved, egotistical mind in this riveting autobiography

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Hildegard of Bingen’s Unknown Language, Recommended Reading

Hildegard of Bingen’s Unknown Language

Hildegard of Bingen's visions from God were so vivid she invented a new language to describe them. This translation is a must for all lovers of the esoteric...

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The Shock of the New, Recommended Reading

The Shock of the New

Robert Hughes narrates the rise of modernism with humor, clarity, and staggeringly deep cultural knowledge in one of my favorite art history books—a must read

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Vasari on Technique, Recommended Reading

Vasari on Technique

Vasari was one of the first art historians, working in the 16th century—and his treatise on artistic techniques is still insightful 500 years later

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Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, Recommended Reading

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire

Gorgeous color printing and in-depth essays make this a definitive exploration of the majestic Teotihuacan civilization—and one of the most beautiful books in my library

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Letters of the Great Artists, Recommended Reading

Letters of the Great Artists

Letters of the Great Artists collects hundreds of intimate notes and messages from artists to their best friends and worst enemies. An incredible way to learn about many of history's most famous artists.

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Imperial Mughal Painting, Recommended Reading

Imperial Mughal Painting

44 years old and long out of print, this slim volume is still a great introduction to the painstakingly precise world of Mughal miniature painting

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Hilma af Klint, Notes and Methods, Recommended Reading

Hilma af Klint, Notes and Methods

There are currently two majors books on the works and occult cosmology of visionary artist Hilma af Klint—this is the better one

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The History of Africa, Recommended Reading

The History of Africa

A brilliant, in-depth review of the histories of the African continent's many distinct cultures. Essential reading for understanding African art

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Japanese Women Artists, 1600-1900, Recommended Reading

Japanese Women Artists, 1600-1900

One of my favorite volumes. Many of these women artists are barely represented online, if at all. This book is a treasure

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Photographs by Man Ray, Recommended Reading

Photographs by Man Ray

Though famous for turning found garbage into art, this collection of Man Ray's intensely creative photographs cements him as a pioneer of the medium

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The Story of Painting, Recommended Reading

The Story of Painting

A joyful and remarkably thorough overview of Western painting by the witty and charming historian, and Roman Catholic nun, Sister Wendy

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The Blood of Kings, Recommended Reading

The Blood of Kings

Explore the how the Mayan culture connected art, spirituality, and ritual in a gristly, beautifully illustrated exploration by historian George Braziller

amazon ↗indiebound ↗

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