art books

How humanity has managed to express in a work of art its deepest feelings and most abstract and complex ideas. The best art history books.

Critical observation is an increasingly rare skill in our society. We live in a world that moves at high speed, where the details of our day to day are frequently ignored. Frantic images invade us and we are not used to thinking about their meanings and origins.

It is important that you learn to observe your reality from another perspective, knowing how to interpret the symbolism encoded in cities, in those concrete labyrinths, in their sculptures, paintings, and architecture.

That is why this time we bring you the best art history books, which will allow you to know the origin of the most important artistic manifestations. With these books, you will be able to understand how humanity has managed to express in a work of art its deepest feelings and most abstract and complex ideas.

Disclosure: Some of our items contain affiliate links (as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases).

The Story of Art

by E. H. Gombrich, 1950

Since its publication in 1950, it has become a reference work for all those interested in art.

The author makes a chronological journey from the first paintings in prehistoric caves to the end of the twentieth century with contemporary experimental art; with a very simple language, he addresses the different periods and explains them clearly, due to his deep love for art and his extensive knowledge.

ART: The Definitive Visual Guide

by Andrew Graham Dixon, 2008

Focused as an exhibition of the masterpieces of more than seven hundred artists, the book will take you on a journey through the visual history of humanity.

You will find in its pages the essence of the most important artistic movements, including their origins and influences, and the timeline of their most valuable works.

We recommend it to children and teenagers and to all those who open a book on art history for the first time, and even those interested in art who want to continue delving into the subject.

Ways of Seeing

by John Berger, 1972

In 1972, the art critic John Berger hosted a BBC television show called Ways of Seeing, which revolutionized the way we look at art and interpret it.

This book is the result of the convergence of the main topics covered throughout the show and it has become an indispensable reference in art theory.

The fundamental thesis of this work is that there are different ways of seeing and that media such as photography, cinema, or even advertising have radically changed our relationship with a work of art.

Look, Listen, Read

by Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1993

The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of the most eminent anthropologists and philosophers of the second half of the 20th century.

Although his work deals mostly with linguistics, he focused on his vision of painting, literature, and music in this book.

It is a delightful work where art is approached through different essays such as, for example, Poussin’s philosophical painting, the changes in musical hearing since the 18th century, the ideas by Diderot and Rousseau on art, the relationship between sounds and colors, etc.

Keeping an Eye Open

By Julian Barnes, 2012

Julian Barnes is not an art critic, but one of the best novelists today. In this book, he stands out for his deep, insightful, intelligent, and well-trained gaze, and a deep interest in the art world.

Fascinating anecdotes and scholarly observations fill the pages of the book, which is both an entertaining and in-depth read on modern and contemporary art.

The Power of Art

By Simon Schama, 2006

We got used to believing that art only serves to reflect what is beautiful or pleasing to the eye, and we forget that art is also useful for asking questions, forcing us to rethink our conceptions of the world.

Art, as Simon Schama understands it, has to help us dismantle schemes and reorganize the sense of reality; therefore, in this book, he traces the life and work of eight geniuses (Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko) who defied conventions and revolutionized the world of art.

Body of Art

By Diane Fortenberry & Rebecca Morrill (2015)

The book is divided into thematic blocks that explore beauty, absence, religion, space, gender, emotion, power, limits, and identity.

Readers will find in this work the hidden and stimulating connections of the body through the various art forms that have represented it throughout more than 3500 years; in this way, you will witness the diversity and links between different cultures when thinking about the human body.

The Art Instinct

By Denis Dutton, 2009

Is the Mona Lisa or the Holy Family a feature of human evolution? According to Denis Dutton, our appreciation for the arts is not social but an evolutionary trait derived from natural selection.

Dutton will make you reflect with a book that mixes art and evolutionary science and postulates that our attraction to the beautiful is innate and universal.

History of Beauty

By Umberto Eco, 2004

With hundreds of images and texts, Umberto Eco shows us in this book how beauty has been conceived throughout history.

Nature, the human body, the stars, and mathematical proportions are some of the many areas in which beauty is present, and the Italian writer explores how it has been portrayed in such different ways even within the same cultures.

On Ugliness

By Umberto Eco, 2007

At first, the distinction between beauty and ugliness is easy, but later everything becomes relative; Eco realizes that both concepts were and are necessary at the time as well as today, with the difference that currently they are not enough to understand reality.

Ugliness is considered the antithesis of beauty and with this book, Eco makes an exhibition of how it has been treated in art as opposed to the other term. Together with History of Beauty, they make up two modern classics that will nourish the reader with art.

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