e h gombrich

Art history books

As requested, here’s a short list of art history books that I found extremely helpful during my undergraduate degree. Most of them are just introductory but good reads nonetheless. If you need book recommendations on specific artists, art movements or genres, don’t hesitate to send me a message. 

Here we go!

1. A World History of Art by Hugh Honour & John Fleming. This book is HUGE and it’s available to purchase online in various editions - any of them is okay for an introductory reading. 

2. The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich. Although this book contains next to none female artists, it’s still a good introduction to the art world. 

3. Concepts of Modern Art edited by Nikos Stangos. Good read, covers a lot of areas. Also, I found it for £0.01 on Amazon, so not that bad. 

4. Learning to Look at Paintings by Mary Acton. Self-explanatory really. 

5. The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari. Vasari is perhaps the first to have carried out some sort of primordial art historical research. Although he includes lots of anecdotal stories about artists, these should be read lightly and not be taken all that seriously. However, he does provide us with some invaluable information! 

6. Looking at the Overlooked (Four Essays on Still Life Painting) by Norman Bryson. Nothing is what it looks like. Basically. 

7. Art Since 1900 - Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism by Hal Foster and Rosalind Krauss. Another huge book. It’s also very heavy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

8. Classical Art: From Greece to Rome by Mary Beard and John Henderson. For statues and things like that. 

9. Ways of Seeing by John Berger. This book you guys, if you intent to buy a book, get this one. 

10. The Social History of Art, Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Arnold Hauser. An overview of art history by perhaps the most well-know Marxist art historian.

I am sure more will come to mind as time passes so I will make sure to update this brief list accordingly. Feel free to also add more suggestions if you have any good art history books in mind. Remember that the above are more or less introductory readings than anything else. I hope these recommendations are somewhat helpful to you!

“Nearly every one of the figures that crowd the porches of the great Gothic cathedrals is clearly marked by an emblem so that its meaning and message could be understood and pondered by the faithful. … And yet we feel that the Gothic sculptor has approached his task in a new spirit. To him these statues are not only sacred symbols, solemn reminders of a moral truth. Each of them must have been for him a figure in its own right, different from its neighbour in its attitude and type of beauty and each imbued with an individual dignity.”

- E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art.


“But children grow up too, and they too must learn from history how easy it is for human beings to be transformed into inhuman beings through incitement and intolerance.”

— from A Little History of the World by E H Gombrich

titles by Yale University Press now available at BooksActually :

~ A Little History of the World by E H Gombrich
~ A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton
~ A Little History of Science by William Bynum
~ A Little Book of Language by David Crystal