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10 Must-Read Novels about Art & Artists


By Simon McDonald, Editorial Manager | simon@thereadingroom.com

Later this month, Anne Girard brings to life the mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel in her novel Madame Picasso, about the woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time.

To mark the novel’s publication, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 Must-Read novels about the lives of some of the biggest names in art history and fictional stories about the lives of artists.

I Am Madame XI Am Madame X by Gioia Dilberto

The story of a great work of art, illuminating the struggle between Virginie Gautreau, the notorious beauty of Madame X, and John Singer Sargent as they fought to control the outcome of a painting that changed their lives and affected the course of art history. More >  

Lust for LifeLust for Life by Irving Stone

A fictionalized biography of the Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, based primarily on Van Gogh’s three volumes of letters to his brother, Theo. More >  

BluebeardBluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

Broad humor and bitter irony collide in Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional biography of an aging artist who wants only to be left alone at his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked in his potato barn. More >  

Madame PicassoMadame Picasso by Anne Girard

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. She finds work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge and catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world. More >  

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Captivated by his own portrait, Dorian Gray makes a Faustian bargain to sell his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty and is drawn into a corrupt double life, where he is able to indulge his desires while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only Dorian’s picture bears the traces of his decadence. More >  

The Painter from ShanghaiThe Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

A work of fiction but based on the life and work of a real artist, this is the story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented, and provocative Chinese artists of the twentieth century. More >  

The Great ManThe Great Man by Kate Christensen

Oscar Feldman, the renowned figurative painter, has died, survived by his wife, Abigail; their son, Ethan; his sister, the well-known abstract painter Maxine Feldman; as well as his longtime mistress, Teddy St. Cloud, and their daughters. More >  

Girl With a Pearl EaringGirl with a Pearl Earing by Tracy Chevalier

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this portrait of the young woman whose life is transformed when she finds herself immortalized in canvas and oil in one of Vermeer’s most celebrated paintings. More >  

The Passion of ArtemesiaThe Passion of Artemesia by Susan Vreeland

The inspiring story about one of the few female post-Renaissance painters to achieve fame during her own era and her lifelong struggle to reconcile career and family, passion and genius. More >  

The Agony and EcstasyAgony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone

In Irving Stone’s classic work, Michelangelo Buonarroti is brought to life in full, in a portrait of his dangerous, impassioned loves and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has even known. More >  

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