Are you an art-history buff looking for new ways to satisfy your craving for knowledge?

If you're interested in exploring the shaped art history of the past and present, you'll find that reading art history books can be an invaluable resource. From classical art to abstract art, these books provide a detailed look into how global history changed the artistic narrative.

With our succinct yet objective reviews, we help knowledgeable enthusiasts and beginner learners alike decide which books are worth their time and money. We review classic texts as well as modern works that have made a splash in the world of art history scholarship.

Our reviews provide a thorough overview of each book’s content, style, and relevance so that you can get quickly up-to-date on what's available out there in terms of quality literary pieces about art history. Whether you're looking for something more academic or just want to know some interesting facts about a particular artist or movement, Best Art History Books is sure to equip you with all the necessary information before making your final decision!

Read our comprehensive book reviews today! Click here now and see which ones fit your interests!

How We Choose These Best Art History Books

It can be hard to know which books to read when it comes to art history.

There are so many books on the topic of art history, it can be hard to know which one is the best for you.

We have done the hard work for you and come up with a list of the Best Art History Books.

1. The Story of Art" by E.H. Gombrich

Best for Historical Trends

Written in 1950, this book tells the story of art from its beginnings in ancient civilizations through the ages, up until modern times.

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What Is This Book About

"The Story of Art" by E.H. Gombrich is a classic in the world of art history and continues to be one of the most beloved books on the subject today. Written in 1950, it tells the story of art from its beginnings in ancient civilizations through the ages, up until modern times. It is written in an easy-to-understand style that takes readers through human artistic development with clarity and intelligence. The book has been praised for its fine appreciation of detail, relevance to real-world experience, and its strong sense of historical trends. If you’re looking for a book that will bring a better understanding and appreciation of art throughout history, "The Story of Art" by E.H. Gombrich is certainly worth checking out!

Why You Will Love It

You will love “The Story of Art” by E.H. Gombrich because it offers something truly special. It carefully tracks historical trends in art from the ancient world to modern times and provides vivid examples that make art history come alive. It paints a vivid picture of how art styles have evolved through the ages and provides insightful commentary on the themes and techniques associated with each era. You can feel confident that every detail has been researched thoroughly and thoughtfully presented, allowing readers a unique appreciation for each period of art history. You'll soon be captivated by this comprehensive journey through the deeper depths of art development!

2. The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari

Best for Renaissance

This book serves as an invaluable window into both Europe's Renaissance-era art and life. 

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What Is This Book About

Giorgio Vasari's "The Lives of the Artists" has become an influential and treasured piece of literature since its first publication in 1550. It not only gives insight into the lives and works of some of history's most beloved painters and sculptors but also preserves a snapshot of Renaissance-era Europe in both artistry and life. With its intimate glimpse into the achievements of figures such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, and many others, it is no wonder that this book continues to interest readers centuries later. A must-read for any enthusiast of art history!

Why You Will Love It

You will love The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari! This book serves as an invaluable window into both Europe's Renaissance-era art and life. You can read about some of the world's most renowned painters and sculptors, like Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello, from their perspectives. Discover the stories behind their beloved works that have gone on to shape history. Learn more about the Renaissance not only through its art but also through the movements and personalities that existed during that era. You can't help but appreciate Vasari's efforts in preserving this legacy through his exceptional writing!

3. Ways of Seeing by John Berger

Best for Art Enthusiasts

This book has become a classic resource for those looking to gain new insight into why we see visual images the way we do.

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What Is This Book About

John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" is a book that is beloved by art, photography, and media enthusiasts all over the world. Since its original release in 1972, it has become a classic resource for those looking to gain new insight into why we see visual images the way we do. As one of Britain's most influential art critics, John Berger delves deep into our understanding of art, history, and culture with his adapted version of Walter Benjamin's landmark essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", exploring why some pieces are considered beautiful - while others are regarded as rubbish - within the ever-changing context of modern society. For its continuing exploration of how cultural history shapes our appreciation and interpretation of art, "Ways of Seeing" is an absolute must-read.

Why You Will Love It

You will love "Ways of Seeing" by John Berger because it takes an in-depth look at how our understanding of artwork is shaped by history, culture, and the environment surrounding us. With an incredibly compelling narrative, Berger questions what we consider to be art - a thought-provoking journey that you'll be hard-pressed to put down as soon as you start reading. It's no wonder why this book has been revered for its insight into the often complex task of telling one people’s experience from another. You won't want to miss out on this fantastic read about the human relationship with art.

4. 50 Artists You Should Know by Thomas Koester

Best for Modern Art

Filled with gorgeous photography and in-depth, engaging text, this book will help you connect more with the masterpieces of our time. 

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What Is This Book About

Thomas Koester's 50 Artists You Should Know is an incredible book if you’re looking to engage more deeply with modern art. Filled with gorgeous photography and in-depth, engaging text, this book will help you connect more with the masterpieces of our time. Through his thoughtful synthesis of competent analysis, generous description, and intriguing historical detail, Koester reveals the passion of these 50 artists. Read this book to understand their original brilliance while exploring their ongoing influence on contemporary art today. From Cubism to Expressionism and Impressionism to Surrealism, this book will open up a world of expression that is not only visually stunning but one that expresses the artist’s deepest creativity and emotion.

Why You Will Love It

You will love this book because Thomas Koester has a unique eye for artists who are worth getting to know. He isn't afraid to admit admiration and reverence for them, while at the same time, he provides critical insight into why they were so good and how they've influenced later generations. You'll find a thoughtful synthesis of competent analysis, generous description, and intriguing historical details that bring the chosen 50 artists to life in a way you'll never forget!

5. The Art Book by Phaidon Editors

Best for Inspiration

This book offers a fascinating journey through the history of art and gives readers a chance to appreciate the different styles and genres that have influenced the way we view art today.

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What Is This Book About

The Art Book by Phaidon Editors is an inspiring collection of over 500 iconic works of art from across the ages. From Ancient Egyptian sculptures to modernist photography, the book offers a fascinating journey through the history of art and gives readers a chance to appreciate the different styles and genres that have influenced the way we view art today. It includes detailed texts about each painter, photographer, or sculptor and interesting facts about the work that brings each piece to life. Its stunning illustrations make The Art Book an ideal coffee-table book, as well as a great present for anyone interested in learning more about art.

Why You Will Love It

You will love "The Art Book" because it provides readers with an incredible opportunity to explore art through the ages. Phaidon Editors have compiled an exquisite collection of artworks that come together in this book to capture the development of art since its inception. You get to appreciate various styles and genres of artwork, from ancient artifacts to more modern takes on ideas and themes. Plus, the picture choices are so diverse that you're sure to find something that you connect with at a personal level. So why not pick up this amazing book today? You won't be disappointed!

Best Art History Books FAQs

You may have a lot of questions about our art history books, but you're not sure who to ask.

It can be hard to know who to trust when you're looking for information about something as important as art history books.

We've compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about our art history books so that you can find the answers you need quickly and easily.

What is the best history of an art book for beginners?

For beginners looking for an introduction to art history, I would highly recommend The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich. This book is an engaging and consolidated overview of the major movements in western art, including Ancient Greece, Renaissance Europe, and 20th-century modernism. It covers 2000 years' worth of cultural developments with great detail yet remains approachable and easy to follow due to Gombrich’s ability to condense complicated ideas into succinct explanations that can be easily understood even by those without a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, it offers beautiful illustrations which show many examples from each era covered in the book; these visuals are essential for helping readers form a greater appreciation and understanding of different artistic styles throughout history.

Should artists learn art history?

Absolutely! The more any artist knows about the history of art, the better equipped they are to make meaningful and powerful contributions to their craft. Art history is an important tool for understanding both how artistic movements developed throughout time, as well as how each period influences current works that artists create.

It's also a great way to gain insight into techniques used by different masters in particular eras, which can expand one's creative ideas and approaches to making art. For example, studying Renaissance artists like Michelangelo or da Vinci can provide invaluable knowledge on composition and anatomy that any visual artist today could use in their work. Furthermore, learning the historical context of various artworks helps build a greater appreciation for them - something that all practicing artists should strive for.

In addition, taking courses in art history may also give learning opportunities related to topics such as cultural diversity and global perspectives within the genre of art; this encourages self-discovery which leads to personal expression within one's pieces of artwork and beyond. Whether aspiring or critically acclaimed artists alike; studying some sort of art history provides an arsenal of tools for being successful in whatever realm they choose to pursue in life.

What are art historians mostly interested in?

Art historians are primarily interested in understanding the creative works of art, their contexts, and their meanings. By researching artwork from all periods and cultures, art historians seek to broaden our collective knowledge of past human creativity. They study the techniques used by various artists and can interpret them to explore an artist's intentions or the historical background that shaped the work itself. Additionally, they address questions about art movements across time and various styles of artistic expression throughout different cultures. Art historians also aim to create a critical discourse on past and present artwork to define what constitutes “good” or “successful” artwork - as well as trends that have emerged from previous works that remain relevant today. Ultimately, art historians are guided by their dedication to understanding how humanity has chosen to express itself through artistic mediums over time so that we may better understand what it means to be human and how our society has evolved through cultural creation.

Is the history of art useful?

Absolutely! The study of art history is important for a variety of reasons. Art has been around since the dawn of civilization and has played an integral role in societies ever since. By studying the history of art, we can gain insight into past cultures, values, and belief systems—which have an enormous impact on shaping our modern world. We can also learn about aesthetic trends throughout history—from ancient Greek sculpture to 20th Century Pop Art—and understand how these movements informed creative expression over time.

At its core, the study and understanding of art history are fundamental to appreciating works from all eras with a more informed lens. By better understanding of when and why something was created, it gives us greater context for placing things within our worldviews today. Additionally, art moves society forward by inspiring innovative new ideas—helping us move ahead while still learning from what’s come before us in terms of artistic development and culture-wide acceptance or celebration. Put simply: art shapes who we are as people; by exploring its trajectory through time, we get a much better picture of who we are today!

Why is art history so hard?

Art history can seem intimidating and challenging to many, but it doesn't have to be. There are a few reasons why art history is considered difficult, primarily due to its vastness and complexity.

First, art history covers all of the visual aspects throughout time, which means an immense amount of information to digest! Art historians must familiarize themselves with various physical objects such as painting and sculpture; materials such as oil paint or marble; techniques like trompe l’oeil or pointillism; subject matter like religious symbolism or Greek mythology; style periods from Byzantine mosaics to abstract expressionism; artists from Raphael to Warhol; historical events that might influence a work of art’s meaning—and much more. Understanding the immense breadth of subjects in terms of their context in time requires investment & commitment!

Another factor making art history so hard for some people is the tendency for it to be presented most often as “names and dates". This type of rote memorization without seeing how each area relates can be extremely tedious for students expecting a more holistic approach. While names & dates are important elements within any artistic tradition, understanding how these connect & flow together over time can provide much more insight into why works are significant & relevant today. Even further, studying individual pieces closely (via analysis) helps build on this relational structure between connections while also filling out our understanding through a closer look at details such as craftsmanship or iconography. By gaining insight into artists' choices –– intentional or otherwise –– we gain unique perspectives that add richness & nature beyond basic facts found within books (or online).

Is history more of a science or an art?

History, in many ways, can be seen as both a science and an art. As the scientific method is often used to evaluate historical events and facts, it can certainly be argued that history is a science. However, multiple interpretations of historical events are possible based on one's own opinions and biases—hence why there can also be an artistic aspect to studying history.

The field of historiography, the study of how to study and write about history, has been heavily influenced by both scientific-based research methods (such as archaeology or analyzing written primary sources) as well as theoretical approaches from philosophy and other fields (such as Foucault’s approach to understanding power dynamics throughout time).

It could be argued that true historians who aim for accuracy should strive for a synthesis between these two sides: understanding the scientific analytical side while also keeping in mind different interpretations of events based on differing opinion-based perspectives. A historian must practice impartiality while at the same time having critical thinking skills which allow them to account for various viewpoints on certain topics with depth. Thus, we could say that history is more accurately seen not just through either/or terms such as “science” or “art” but rather through something like a skillful balance between both which renders it the truly complex yet meaningful body of knowledge.

How do I study art history?

Studying art history is a great way to broaden your knowledge and appreciation for the visual arts. It requires a combination of looking at images, analyzing them, and doing some research to understand their context and development over time.

First off, it helps to familiarize yourself with specific art movements – these are terms used by scholars which define the work of particular groups of artists within an era or style. Examples include Impressionism, Abstractionism, Surrealism, Pop Art, and so on. Understanding what kind of artwork belongs within each movement can help you organize your research into different categories and make it easier to determine the connection between works from one period with those in another. Additionally, there are resources available - such as books written about individual visual artists - which can provide interesting insights into how certain pieces were created or what cultural influences they may have been responding to when they were made.

Another important part of studying art history is drawing connections between different works and periods: what role did color play in a painting? What influenced its composition? How do various elements throughout the piece contribute to its overall meaning? Asking questions like these can open up an entirely new world of understanding when it comes to interpreting artwork - both through primary sources (works themselves) and secondary sources (books written by influential critics).

Finally, if you're looking for an effective way to study art history outside of regular classes or lectures, visiting museums is another excellent way for students interested in this subject matter to gain more insight into certain periods or artistic styles without having any prior knowledge base. While most museums won’t offer direct instruction on topics related to art history per se, attending exhibitions can give visitors valuable visuals-based lessons that prove just as educational - especially when coupled with additional readings that bring out more details about featured works!


For art lovers looking to broaden their knowledge, reading an art history book is the perfect way to educate themselves on art from a variety of periods and styles (classical art or abstract art). Ranging from ancient Greek art to modern and contemporary art, these books provide an in-depth look into the art world, making them a must-have for any art historian or enthusiast. Whether it's taking a journey through medieval art, learning about vibrant Renaissance masterpieces, or discovering captivating artworks of today's greats, art history biographies, and books open up a window into the creative minds of painters and sculptors from various times throughout history.

All in all, there is a wide variety of books out there to help guide anyone interested in art. From E. H. Gombrich's The Story of Art and Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Artists to John Berger's Ways of Seeing and Thomas Koester’s 50 Artists You Should Know to The Art Book by Phaidon Editors, I hope this blog post has provided some great options for readers new to the topic or those already familiar with it. No matter your level of art knowledge, I strongly encourage you to pick up one or more of the titles mentioned above and broaden your understanding. There is nothing like learning more about fine art and its history directly from reading rather than listening to someone else—so start exploring today!

Thanks for reading!

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