Art History Books that make Great Gifts

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“An art book is a museum without walls.” —André Malraux

Give the gift of a portable museum this holiday season! We’ve curated a selection of books about art history that range from silly to serious that are sure to please any art lovers you may have on your list. With books like these waiting for them at the end of the day, they’ll be happy to stay home and settle in!    

We hope you find these products as delightful as we do. Just an FYI: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, by clicking through and making a purchase, you will also be contributing to the growth of Sartle.


1. Artcurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History by Jennifer Dasal 


The debut book by our friend Jennifer Dasal, the host of the ArtCurious Podcast, is a delightful collection of stories from art history that is engaging, fun, and insightful, showing just how juicy and weird art history is! There’s much to enjoy in this book, whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or just plain curious about art.

Find it here.


2. Men to Avoid in Art and Life by Nicole Tersignini


Art is nothing if not timeless, and this book uses art to highlight the things women have endured for centuries. And it does so in a brilliant and hilarious way! Relatable, sharp, and funny, this book makes a great gift for feminists, art history enthusiasts, and meme-loving internet dwellers alike. 

Find it here.


3. The Last Painting by Bernard Chambez


This beautiful coffee table book may seem a little bit morbid, as it focuses on the last works of art created by artists over the centuries, but it also offers a unique look into the human condition and the relationship between art and death. Full of unexpected and stunning images by a range of artists, from Rubens to Cy Twombly, this book is endlessly interesting!

Find it here.


4. American Art Deco: Architecture and Regionalism by Carla Breeze


For good or ill, we’re back in the 20s again! What better time to reflect on the decade of flappers, Art Deco, and jazz? This gorgeous book is brimming with stunning images of Art Deco movie theatres, skyscrapers, and more, and it’s perfect for your vintage-loving, but thoroughly modern, friends.

Find it here.


5. Women in Art: Fifty Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World by Rachel Ignotofsky


You don’t have to be a kid to find this whimsically illustrated book about women artists both informative and inspiring. Between its covers you’ll find all your favorites, like Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo, but you’ll also discover lesser known (but totally badass) artists like Mary Edmonia Lewis and Elisabetta Sirani. Perfect for an artist friend in need of inspiration. 

Find it here.


6. Abstract Art: A Global History by Pepe Karmel


Abstract art doesn’t just belong to art history’s attention hogs like Jackson Pollock, and this groundbreaking new book proves it. It provides a new narrative of abstraction, one that examines artists and cultures from all over the world, to create a much more rich history of abstract imagery than previously imagined--one that will radically change the way you view art.

Find it here


7. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power by Mark Godfrey


This catalog from the exhibition put on by the Tate and the De Young Museum covers art made by Black American artists like David Hammons and Barkley L. Hendricks between 1963 and 1983. The catalog is just as powerful as the exhibition, making the book timely and important reading for anyone interested in post-war art and the American experience.

Find it here.


8. The Art Puzzle Book by Suzie Hodge and Gareth Moore


This engaging book invites the reader to sharpen their eyes and think creatively to solve puzzles about works of art. Some of the puzzles are trivia based, but others involve careful looking, both of which aspects make this book a fun way to learn about art and the choices artists make.

Find it here.


9. The Vincent van Gogh Atlas by Nienke Denekamp


Location matters a lot when trying to understand the work of Van Gogh. The artist moved with some frequency, his experiences and mental state varied dramatically with each new place, and he captured those feelings in his location-specific landscapes. This book helps the reader trace his footsteps in a meaningful way and is a must-have for any Vincent lover. (There’s also an atlas dedicated to Rubens, another artist on the go, which can be found here.)

Find it here.


10. Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang: Fifty Makers, Shakers, and Heartbreakers from the Victorian Era by Kirsty Stonell Walker


This book shows that, underneath the flashiness of Rossetti and Millais, the backbone of the Pre-Raphaelite movement may in fact have been made up of women. This book highlights the contributions of a number of female artists, like Julia Margaret Cameron and Marie Spartali Stillman, as well as models and spouses. Naturally, it contains many a saucy tale. A fantastic gift for anyone interested in those crazy Victorians.

Find it here.


11. Cabinet of Curiosities by Patrick Mauriès 


The origins of museums lie in the Cabinet of Curiosity--collections of unique objects, both natural and man-made, assembled by educated gentlemen like Rembrandt in the seventeenth century. From unicorn horns to celestial globes, this book has it all! Perfect for your friend with a penchant for the bizarre.

Find it here.


12. The Honest Art Dictionary: A Jovial Trip through Art Jargon by the Art History Babes


This book teaches you all the art history terms you need to know, but keeps it fresh and funny while doing so. It’s the debut book by our friends the Art History Babes and we are so here for it! Plus, your purchase allows four art historians to make a living in an exceptionally difficult field.

Find it here.


13. I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi by Gina Siciliano


Yep, It’s a graphic novel all about Artemisia Gentileschi, the badass Baroque artist who overcame trauma and adversity to become one of the most successful female artists of the era. With beautiful illustrations and thorough research, this coming-of-age story is all too relevant even today!

Find it here.


14. Hokusai’s Landscapes: The Complete Series by Sarah Thompson


Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock prints have had a lasting impact on art across the globe, and now you can see them all in this gorgeous book. With tumultuous seas, whispering waterfalls, and lush foliage, it’s easy to see why Vincent van Gogh (and so many others) found his prints so inspiring.

Find it here.


15. Reading Art: Art for Book Lovers by David Trigg 


Chances are if someone likes reading about art, they probably enjoy art about reading, too! This book is a beautiful compendium of books in imagery throughout the ages, a visual love letter to reading that is both informative and enchanting.

Find it here.


16. Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future by Tracey Bashkoff


Move over, Kandinsky! Hilma af Klint’s work was some of the first abstract art ever made in modern Europe. This beautiful tome explores her work, which was informed by her interests in mysticism and the occult, and finally gives Hilma af Klint her due! A gorgeous gift for anyone interested in women artists, abstract art, or spiritualism.

Find it here.


17. Bad Blood: Rivalry in Art History by Clayton Schuster


Sartle’s first book, Bad Blood tackles the role competition has played in the lives of artists and the creation of their work. Learn about how Turner ruined Constable’s life with a stroke of his paintbrush, how Baglione sued Caravaggio over some sonnets, and more. Ridiculous stories paired with rich analysis make this book all kinds of entertaining.

Find it here.


18. Pieter Bruegel: The Complete Works by Jürgen Müller


The mega-volume format of this hefty book is perfect for the work of Northern Renaissance master Pieter Bruegel the Elder--you can see every inch of his microscopically detailed work up close and personal! Accompanied by excellent essays, Bruegel’s cynical paintings come alive in this book, every last demon, peasant, and proverb springing from the page. A gift that’s worth every penny. 

Find it here.


19. Guerilla Girls: The Art of Behaving Badly by the Guerilla Girls

The anonymous women behind the Guerilla Girls are some of the most disruptive agitators in the art world. This book is the first catalog of their entire body of work and it’s told from their own perspective! Perfect for your friend whose hobby is dismantling the patriarchy.

Find it here.


20. The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair


This delightfully designed romp through the rainbow will change the way you see the world around you. Cheerful, fresh, and brimming with fascinating facts, it explores colors through the lenses of science, optics, aesthetics, and history. 

Find it here.


Comments (3)

Daffur Link

This is a great list, thanks for the suggestions!

Jackson Wells

I have a couple of books on art history that I think are great gifts. One is called Art and the Ancient World by Fred Licht, and another is called The Art of the Greeks by E.B. Harrison. These books are available inexpensively and show that you care enough to give a thoughtful gift.


I love reading books about art!