We’re about to close out the decade, but before we turn the page into 2020, we want to take a look at the library of art books we’ve accumulated this year. From biographies to drawing instructions to creative insights—2019 has been a productive year for the arts.
It was hard to narrow it down, but in our top ten selections, we’ve included a range of art books to expand your horizons and invigorate your imaginations. Among them is Sophie Walker’s exploration of the philosophy and art of Japanese design in The Japanese Garden, as well as Nathalia Holt’s The Queens of Animation, which tells the stories of the overlooked women animators of Disney. We’ve also included art books that feature stunning color plates of artist’s work, like Hokusai’s Landscapes and Giorgio de Chirico—which are as lovely to flip through as they are to decorate your coffee table with. If you’re more interested in the making of art, Oliver Sin’s Drawing the Head will guide you through the many steps of realistic portraiture.
Scroll down to see our picks for the best art books of 2019. You can order them in paperback, hardcover, or, if you have a Kindle device, you can buy the digital copy of the book. If your reading list is too long to count, Kindle Unlimited will grant you access to over a million ebooks that you can read on the go.
To wrap up 2019, we’ve selected the top ten art books of the year!
Hokusai’s Landscapes: The Complete Series by Sara Thompson
The most famous Japanese artist, Hokusai’s color woodblock prints had a lasting legacy on Eastern and Western art. Hokusai’s Landscapes amasses all of the artist’s incredible landscapes, and examines how his printmaking made such an impact on the art world.
Legendary Artists and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman
There’s something to be said about the “artist look.” So much so that author Terry Newman has compiled 40 profiles of artists whose legacy includes their personal style (in hairstyle, clothing, or accessories), and examines the relationship between their work and choices of apparel.
Conversations with Turner: The Watercolors by Alexander Nemerov, Tim Barringer, Susan Galassi, and Oliver Meslay
One of Britain’s greatest painters, J.M.W. Turner is remembered for his atmospheric paintings, often of ships and the sea. This book examines an extensive collection of Turner’s watercolors, which laid an important foundation for Turner’s personal artistic style.
Abstract Expressionsm by David Anfam, Susan Davidson, Jeremy Lewison, and Carter Ratcliff
Ever wanted to dig into one of art history’s most impactful art movements? This book provides comprehensive insight into the style of abstract expressionism through numerous color plates of major works and observant text.
Warhol on Basquiat: The Iconic Relationship Told in Andy Warhol’s Words and Pictures by Michael Dayton Hermann and Reuel Golden
Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat—two major art icons—had a unique personal and professional relationship. This book compiles all of Warhol’s photographs and writings about their friendship, offering a rare glimpse into these two artists’ lives.
Giorgio de Chirico: The Changing Face of Metaphysical Art edited by Victoria Noel-Johnson
Scholar Victoria Noel-Johnson provides the first Giorgio de Chirico synopsis in over 20 years. Although most famous for his eerie metaphysical paintings, de Chirico went through many complex periods to find his artistic style, all the while exploring deep philosophical concepts that affected his creative work.
The Japanese Garden by Sophie Walker
In this book, author Sophie Walker explores 800 years of history about the Japanese garden. Alongside 100 featured gardens of Shinto shrines and imperial estates, Walker includes several essays to unpack the art and philosophy of Japanese design.
The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt
How much do you know about the animators behind Disney’s most famous cartoon films? Learn the untold stories of the determined women who fought for respect in the male-dominated animation industry of Disney.
Making Comics by Lynda Barry
Cartoonist and professor Lynda Barry encourages creativity in people of all ages. Her book attempts to spark ideas and initiate productivity—a must-have guide to help you on your way into making comics.
Drawing the Head by Oliver Sin
For those seeking some drawing guidance, especially in the art of portraiture, artist and instructor Oliver Sin has created a book to walk you through the process. Through a series of thorough step by step instructions, your art will soon flourish.