Booklist: The Art Books

I am fascinated by the artistic process. I love to watch an artist at work. To see him ponder, create, evaluate, adapt. To be there as the work comes to life under his hands is like magic. Almost as exciting is to plunge inside the mind of an artist by reading his words. Or by reading stories about his life…interactions of artists and how they influence one another, etc….

A fairly generous section of my personal library is devoted to art and artists. Here are a few favorites:

Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another to cause vibrations in the soul.” Kandinsky’s vibrant, energetic works have always captivated me. His theories about colour, about the artistic process, and about the effect of both on the soul are equally compelling.

What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy “Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement ; art is a great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling.” Tolstoy has a tendency, from time to time, to meander and wag on. But golden nuggets like the above keep you digging through it because there is SO much wisdom here. Provocative, sometimes controversial, contemplative, rich.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle Cosmos from Chaos. Art as Incarnation. Art as a reminder of the glory and magic we knew as children. Lavish Grace. All from a great friend to artists... “In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.”

The Annotated Mona Lisa by Carol Strickland This survey of the history of art introduces the reader to the major artistic eras as well as representative artists. Explanations are succinct and surprisingly thorough. If you are one of those folks who has always wanted a basic understanding of art, but does not know where to begin, begin here.

Michelangelo and the Popes Ceiling, The Judgement of Paris, and Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King Part history, part inside view of the artists at work. Learn about their idiosyncrasies. The maneuvering and jealousy. Extraordinary genius. All set against the culture of their time. King is a great storyteller. Good stuff.

Refractions by Makoto Fujimura “God desires to refract His perfect light via the broken, prismatic shards of our lives.” A talented avant garde painter, Fujimura is also an important voice with regard to the integration of faith and art. Stories largely drawn from post 9/11 New York illustrate how God relentlessly pulls beauty from ashes.

Beauty the Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue “This is the spirit that beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight…” Poet and priest O’Donohue explores the theme of beauty from a distinctly Celtic perspective. He looks at colour, music, nature, dance, death, and finally the beauty of God. Gorgeous contemplations delivered in sumptuous prose that threatens at any moment to flower into poetry.

Blue Arabesque by Patricia Hampl This is a beautifully woven tapestry of stories and contemplations regarding the “uninterrupted gaze” and of thoughts that bud and unfurl. Hamply tells us of Delacroix, Matisse and Picasso, carrying us with them into middle eastern harems, and to the light of the Cote d’Azure.

For Children:

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia Each volume tells the story of an individual artist. There are hilarious cartoon illustrations that tell the story with great fun. There are also reproductions of  some of the artist’s works. Venezia  has a series of Musician/composer books, as well. My children loved these. As did I. Highly recommended.

Museum 123 and Museum ABC from the Metropolitan Museum of Art These beautiful volumes are a counting book and an alphabet illustrated with marvelous works of art. I am already using the counting book with Kenzie who is only 3 months old. Not sure she is getting the whole number thing, but she loves looking at the paintings.

OK, you know the rules. You have read, now share. Tell us all about art books you love.

*Painting at the top of the post by Wassily Kandinsky