REBLOGGED 22 May 2012: Here’s a list of 40 texts that Alanna Martinez writing for Blouin’s ArtINFO thinks are “essential” books that “every artist should own”, along with a couple of sentences why she thinks so. I have *’d the ones I have read (and concur, they are essential reading!)



Date unknown – “The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own, Part I” 

Sadly the link is now broken – verified 11 Jan 2017, but here’s the list:

  1. Visual Thinking by Rudolf Arnheim, University of California Press.
  2. * Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, Farrar Straus and Giroux and Hill and Wang (MacMillan)
  3. * Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, Viking (Pengiun Group)
  4. Art/Work by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber, Simon & Schuster
  5. The Continental Aesthetics Reader, 2nd Edition” Edited by Clive Cazeaux, Routledge
  6. Art History: 4th Edition by Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren, Pearson (I’ve read not this one but both Gardner’s and Janson’s “History of Art” tomes. Well worth the time.)
  7. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Harper Collins
  8. History of Beauty and On Ugliness by Umberto Eco, Rizzoli New York
  9. Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students by James Elkins, University of Illinois Press
  10. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation by E.H. Gombrich, Princeton University Press
  11. * Art in Theory: 1900 – 2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, 2nd Edition Edited by Charles Harrison and Dr. Paul J. Wood, Wiley
  12. * Illuminations: Essays and Reflections Knopf Doubleday, and/or Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926,” Belknap Press of Harvard University
  13. The Pink Glass Swan by Lucy Lippard, the New Press
  14. The Art Museum Edited by Phaidon
  15. Orientalism by Edward Said, Penguin
  16. * Anatomy: A Complete Guide for Artists by Joseph Sheppard, Dover Publications (I refer to this over and over again, as I continue to be interested in drawing/painting the human figure)
  17. * Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, W. W. Norton & Company
  18. * The Lives of the Artists Giorgio Vasari, Oxford University Press
  19. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: Over Thirty Years of Conversations with Robert Irwin by Lawrence Weschler, University of California Press
  20. A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1916 by John Richardson, Random House


22 May 2012 – “The ARTINFO Bookshelf: 40 Books That Every Artist Should Own, Part II”

The link to the Part II list here (still active)

  1. Witness to Her Art Rhea Anastas and Michael Brenson, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
  2. The Profitable Artist: A Handbook for All Artists in the Performing, Literary, and Visual Arts Edited by Artspire, Co-published by the New York Foundation for the Arts and Allworth Press
  3. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland, Image Continuum Press (Have read this one multiple times, especially when I’m feeling like a need a confidence “boost”)
  4. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field by Pierre Bourdieu, Stanford University Press
  5. Participation Edited by Claire Bishop, MIT Press, co-published with Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
  6. Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility James P. Carse, Ballantine Books (Random House)
  7. 100 Artists’ Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists Edited by Alex Danchev, Penguin Classics
  8. Art As Experience by John Dewey, Penguin Group
  9. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics by Rosalyn Deutsche, MIT Press
  10. Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel” by Ernst Haeckel, Prestel
  11. True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World Anthony Haden-Guest, Grove/Atlantic Inc.
  12. The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, Basic Books
  13. Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia by Richard Hertz, Hol Art Books
  14. Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy by Dave Hickey, Art Issues Press
  15. * After Modern Art 1945-2000 David Hopkins, Oxford University Press
  16. Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky, Dover Publications
  17. Art School: Propositions for the 21st Century Edited by Steven Henry Madoff, MIT Press
  18. I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette Edited by Paper Monument
  19. * On Photography by Susan Sontag, Picador (MacMillan)
  20. The Practice and Science of Drawing Harold Speed, Dover Publications

And a few more books that could be on the list:

  1. 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White (2011)
  2. Gardiner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History – Vols I and II (15th Edition, 2015)
  3. And my new favourite, “What they didn’t teach you in art school” by Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley (2016)

Rosalind Davis and Annabelle Tilley, 'What they didn't teach you in art school', 2016, Ilex Press; 01 edition (3 Nov. 2016). Image courtesy

More about

  • Blouin’s Art Infoonline magazine that contains articles about visual arts, architecture, performing arts, lifestyle, culture, events, videos, and more.