CHRISTMAS BOOKS: Gifts to warm an art lover's heart

CHRISTMAS BOOKS: Gifts to warm an art lover’s heart

  • Bel Mooney has selected the perfect books for art lovers this Christmas 
  • UK-based writer opts for Banksy and The Story of Art Without Men 
  • Other suggestions include David Hockney: My Window and Colours of Art


Painting titled ‘Combing the Hair (La Coiffure)’ by Edgar Degas. Bel Mooney has selected the perfect books for art lovers this Christmas

THE STORY OF ART WITHOUT MEN by Katy Hessel (Hutchinson Heinemann £30, 520pp)

by Katy Hessel (Hutchinson Heinemann £30, 520pp) 

Have you ever heard of Sofonisba Anguissola? Or Adélaide Labille-Guiard? Me neither, until reading this exhilarating, revisionist history of art, lauding female practitioners neglected by convention. 

Both were immensely talented painters, one in the Renaissance the other in the 18th century — just two names in a dazzling array marshalled by a talented young art historian who grinds her axe sharply and with skill. 

In 1649 brilliant Artemisia Gentileschi promised, ‘I’ll show you what a woman can do’ — and Katy Hessel takes up the baton. 

Shocked by how few woman artists people could name, she gives us hundreds — not just painters, but sculptors, engravers, weavers, and quilters, too. Her scholarship, enthusiasm and humour make this lavish book a must for any woman who loves art. 

COLOURS OF ART: THE STORY OF ART IN 80 PALETTES by Chloë Ashby (Frances Lincoln £25, 256pp)


by Chloë Ashby (Frances Lincoln £25, 256pp) 

What a fresh way of looking at art this is. Beginning with prehistoric and ancient art and moving step by step through the centuries and movements in painting (like Impressionism — as in this Edgar Degas painting, Combing The Hair, above — and Pop Art), Chloë Ashby looks at colour throughout art history. 

The palette (that is the distinctive range of pigments) chosen by an artist reveals so much about the time he or she was living in, as well as what it is the painting is trying to say. The theme is as inexhaustible as the tones of the natural world, and just as fascinating. This is a history of art in 80 palettes, to be read from the beginning until the present day, or dipped into randomly, learning about technique and inspiration on every page. Excellent. 


by David Hockney (Taschen £100, 248pp) 

Art is about new ideas and the development of new media in successive generations, and David Hockney’s most recent display of genius harnesses the infinite possibility of the iPhone and iPad. The screen is his new canvas and digital colours explode across the page. 

Each work of art in this magnificent book captures a moment seen through the window in his Yorkshire home: sunrise, raindrops, night skies, snow, and objects and plants on the windowsill. 

The style varies from simple shapes and swathes of colour to brilliantly detailed reflections. 

Time is fleeting, the seasons turn, and the artist grows older, yet his joy in colour, light and line grow in intensity each year. 

This volume is a work of art.

BANKSY by Stefano Antonelli and Gianluca Marziani (Rizzoli Publications £29.95, 240pp)


by Stefano Antonelli and Gianluca Marziani (Rizzoli Publications £29.95, 240pp) 

Nobody knows who he is, yet he’s world-famous. He’s furiously anti-capitalist yet his wall art reaches fat-cat prices. 

He’d claim to be a man of the people, yet he’s the darling of celebrities. He despises consumerism yet his work is ‘consumed’ perhaps more than any other living artist. 

He’s a joker whose subjects are deeply serious. 

The invisible man of contradictions is the modern phenomenon called Banksy — and this must be the most comprehensive account of his career to date, including the most famous works, ephemera, installations etc and providing a wealth of quotations from the man himself. For Banksy fans, this handsome book is the perfect present — so good it forced even a sceptic like me to see his work in a new light. 

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