19 Intriguing Novels About Art and Artists

novels about Art
19 Intriguing Novels About Art and Artists 27

There is something about reading novels about art and artists that is so intriguing. It’s almost like art within art. I love to read and know I am not an writer, but there is something so different about the art world.

We also wanted to make sure that we included novels about artists as well. We hope you love this post as much as we loved making it.

*Novels About Art Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.

Historical Fiction Novels About Art

The marriage portrait

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

December 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I couldn’t put down this biographical fiction novel about art. Maggie O’Farrell just has a way of writing that is utterly captivating.

It’s the story of Lucrezia, daughter of the Grand Duke of Florence, and her unfortunate life as a child bride to the ruler of Ferrara. I always thought that British royal history had all drama, but this story proved me wrong! Those Italians are masters at the art of poison and murder.

I found the story, which also revolves around the painting of the titular marriage portrait, to be fast-moving and fascinating. It’s one of those historical fiction books that had me googling what was real and what truths were bent.  

The Doll Factory

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

This historical fiction novel about art is part mystery, part love story, and part thriller. MacNeal’s debut takes place in Victorian England during the time of The Great Exhibition.

Iris dreams of learning to paint like a true artist, while she tolls away with her twin sister in a doll shop. Silas is a curiosity collector who can’t seem to get Iris out of his head after their chance meeting, and Albie is the rag-a-muffin street urchin I wanted to take home.

Their stories weave together in a slow burn until the blood-pumping, heart-racing conclusion. This stalker book made our list of the best books of 2019.

The Magnolia palace and more goodreads choice awards 2022 books

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

I’ve been big on Gilded Age books recently, so I knew I would love reading about the Frick family and their gorgeous mansion built in that time frame. The bonus was that this dual-timeline story also featured a missing pink diamond!

The story of Helen Frick and her assistant at a formative time in Helen’s life that coincides with Magnolia Diamond’s disappearance is riveting. As is the later timeline, told 50 years later, when a model and a Frick Museum intern are locked in the mansion overnight and on the hunt for the missing diamond.

I couldn’t put this novel about art down. It might be my first Fiona Davis, but it won’t be my last!

the botticelli secret

The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

This gritty story is about a prostitute during the Italian Renaissance who needs to flee for her life after learning a secret while sitting for famed artist Botticelli. She turns to a novice, Brother Guido, for help after her friends start dying.

It’s sort of like a Da Vinci code set in the 15th century and it all revolves around Botticelli’s Primavera painting. It’s a fun, quick read and one of the first books set in Italy that I ever read. It was a must for novels about art.

Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

We cannot think of a more iconic pick for novels about art than this iconic work by Oscar Wilde. In the book, Dorian lives a hedonistic lifestyle and believes in beauty above all else. He stays the same externally while his portrait ages and portrays the ugliness within.

This novel about art caused a huge uproar when it was published. We cannot even imagine!

confessions of an ugly stepsister

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

You may recognize Maquire from his most famous work, Wicked. This fairy tale retelling reimagines the story of Cinderella.

In this version, set in 1700s Holland, Cinderella’s father is a painter. Told by one of the stepsisters, this story is a much different take on the classic tale and is filled with references to art. We were so excited to include this in our novels about art.

Historical Fiction

Ultimate List of Historical Fiction

Love Historical Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Historical Fiction carefully divided by time period.

Contemporary Fiction Novels About Artists And Art

The Frame up

The Frame-up by Gwenda Bond

Dani Poissant is the daughter of the world’s most famous art thief who happens to be in jail because Dani turned her in. Now, ten years later, she is approached for a once-in-a-lifetime heist that can make up for her past mistakes and reunite herself with her mother’s old gang which includes the love of her life and her former best friend. Can she pull off the heist? Oh, did I mention that the secret to their success is magic?

Why We Liked it: The magical realism of this story set it apart from other art heist novels, but the magical mechanisms should have been more greatly explored in the story. The more interesting part was Dani’s journey of self-discovery and her realizations about her relationship with her mother.

Find this Book in books about thieves, novels about art

Woman on fire

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

Buckle up for a stunning story in Lisa Barr’s newest book, Woman on Fire. Jules, an ambitious investigative journalist, is working on a story about a piece of art that was stolen by the Nazis during WWII. 

But she’s not the only one looking to track down Woman on Fire. Margaux, a gallerist and art thief, also wants to get her hands on the painting.

As we learn the origins of the painting and the many hands it switched to over the years, we also discover the dark underbelly of the art world.

I was ENTHRALLED with this novel about art. I’ll be putting this pick from mystery books on every must-read list we do this year. It was thrilling and informative. Buy it now, and thank me later.

The Art Forger and more of the best books by Jewish writers and authors

The Art Forger by B.A Shapiro

I read this book years ago and it is one that still resonates with me years later. Claire Roth is a young artist who has been blacklisted from the art community after being named “The Great Pretender”. Claire painted a picture for her former lover who claimed the work as his own. When he broke up with her from guilt, Claire tried and failed to claim the art as her own.

Years later, she is working as a painter who paints reproductions. When she is given a chance to forge a painting for $50,000 and her own private gallery show, claire jumps at the chance but does not realize what she is getting herself into. This is one of my favorite novels about art and is a must-read if you like con artist books.

drawing home

Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner

I had the pleasure of reading Jamie Brenner’s newest book a bit early and it didn’t disappoint. With a cover like that, it’s clearly the perfect summer read! Set in Sag Harbour, a young girl is gifted with the entire estate of a famous artist.

Her mother and the artist’s former partner are left bewildered and a battle for the estate ensues. Bea is the crotchety older art dealer and form partner who is fighting like hell for what she thinks is hers. She was a joy to hate in this novel about art!

contemporary fiction header

Ultimate List of Contemporary Fiction

Love Contemporary Fiction? We do too! That’s why we created the Ultimate List of Contemporary Fiction carefully divided by genres.

Novels About Artists

little fires everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

September 2017 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I have mixed feelings about this family drama book about motherhood.  There was nothing I didn’t like.  It is a great story and written really well.  I think because of all the hype I was expecting to be completely blown away. 

Nobody in Shaker Heights was prepared when Mia, a single mother and artist, rents a house from the Richardsons. When friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, the town becomes divided.

Ng has depth to her characters and looks at highly emotional issues. I ended up really liking the book once I got past the beginning and knew we needed to include it in novels about artists.

The age of light

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

This historical fiction novel is about real-life photographer and model,  Lee Miller. I had never heard about Miller prior to this book, though I was familiar with her lover – Man Ray.

She made some life choices that I can’t say I agree with, but I found her to be a strong, feminist woman ahead of her time. This book from our list of best romance novels of all time will be on my best reads of the year list, but be warned – there are some erotic scenes in the novel. As books for book clubs go, this is one of the best and it’s one of our favorite biographical novels about artists. It’s also on our list of the best books of 2019.

The Henna Artist and other Reese Witherspoon Book Club List Picks.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi 

May 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I really enjoyed this historical fiction set in 1950s India. I know little about the artistry and meaning behind henna prior to reading and I learned a great deal about henna, herbal remedies, and Indian culture while reading this book.⁣ Henna is an incredible art form and we were so excited to include this fantastic novel about art on our list.

Because of the descriptive writing, I could picture everything so vividly. The plot, and the class structure in India in particular, would make an excellent book club discussion.⁣

Potrait of a Scotsman

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

This particular romance is set in 1920s England and is the third in Ms. Dunmore’s women’s suffragette series. Hattie Greenfield, artist extraordinaire, is forced into marriage with Lucian Blackstone, a self-made man (V frowned upon by nobles at the time.)

We love that she is an artist for our novels about art and they travel to Scotland on their honeymoon. Perfect for books about Scotland. But, we couldn’t stop thinking that it is also perfect for books Like Outlander!

While the romance itself is swoon-worthy, it’s the depth of non-romantic topics that make it a joy to read. I learned so much about the coal industry and the perils to coal communities in the process.

Thrillers and Mystery Novels About Art

the Da Vinci code

The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon Series #2) by Dan Brown

This is one of the first books about secret societies that I ever read. Dan Brown found a way to incorporate symbolism and brilliant riddles into this modern-day mystery. 

While visiting Paris, Robert Langdon receives a phone call that the curator of the Louvre is dead. The body is covered in strange symbols that lead them on a search for the killer and for answers. This is one of the best murder mystery books I have ever read.

The plot does not slow for a minute from the first page to the last.  It is the first in the Robert Langdon series and my favorite as well. I love the mystery, the suspense, and the non-stop action in this amazing novel about art!

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)

The first in the New York Times Best Selling series of Chief Inspector Gamache. I fell in LOVE with the Inspector, the town of Three Pines, and its residents. Louise Penny CAN WRITE.

The mystery was great (and I didn’t solve it) but what got me the most was Penny’s writing style and reflections on the human psyche. This first Louise Penny book has Chief Inspector Armande Gamache searching a piece of art for clues after its painter, Jane Neal, turns up dead.

This is one of the best detective books and detective series I have ever read. You will fall in love with Three Pines and the people who live there. The wonderful community in this series is the best of what cozy books should be. If you love mystery novels and have not read this series, What are you waiting for?

Find this book in Louise Penny Books in Order / Feel-Good Books / Best Mysteries of all Time /

Portrait of a thief

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

Billed as Ocean’s 11 meets The Farewell, I found myself most closely comparing it to The Italian Job and I LOVED IT.

5 college students is hired by a Beijing art company to steal back relics stolen from the Old Summer Palace by colonists and now on display in famous museums the world over.

Each person brings their talents (getaway driver, hacker, art historian, etc.) and their dreams of what the life-changing sum they’ve been offered can mean for themselves and their immigrant families.

While it might sound frivolous, it’s actually a novel about art with a more emotional vein running beneath. One of longing to fit in, the struggle of straddling two worlds, and the quest for individual and collective identity as Chinese-Americans.

The kill artist

The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon #1) by Daniel Silva

This is the first book in the Gabriel Allon series and if you are reading Daniel Silva books in order, you will want to start with this book to get to know the characters from the very beginning.

Gabriel Allon is living his life in Cornwall as an art restorer after retiring from The Office, the Israeli intelligence. When a terrorist who has a history with Allon (his nemesis) goes on a killing spree, Allon is dragged back into service by his old master, the venerable Ari Shamron who is now the head of The Office.

Allon is now part of a manhunt that spans the globe in a race against time. Will the terrorist cause more destruction and death before they can catch him?


Ultimate List of Thrillers

Love Thrillers? We created this list and carefully divided it by sub-genre. These will definitely keep you on your toes.

The Ultimate List of Mystery Books

Love Mysteries? We created this list and carefully divided it by sub-genre for anyone who lives a good mystery as much as we do.

Novel Ideas 68

Non-Fiction Books About Art and Artists

the art thief

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a nonfiction book that read so much like fiction. Imagine 2 people driving around Europe casually stealing billions of dollars worth of art from the most famous galleries and museums in the world.

That’s what this book about thieves is all about. I was floored by the writing, but the story is one I wouldn’t believe if it wasn’t true. It’s a fast, compelling book that art lovers, mystery lovers, and true crime aficionados must read.

For more books like this one, check out our list of books about con artists and thieves.

queens of animation

The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

This nonfiction old Hollywood book sheds light on the talent of Disney’s pioneering female animators and the struggles they faced in a male-dominated field. I loved learning about these incredible women – like Mary Blair who created the art for the “It’s a Small World” ride. ⁣

I was appalled by the disparate treatment female in the animation field received, but I was also impressed by their gumption. The author does a tremendous job of showing their struggles but also how these women shaped animation as we know it. If you are looking for non-fiction books like Lessons in Chemistry, this is a fantastic pick.

I was heartened to see just how far they have come. The book ends with Frozen and you can clearly see the studio’s growth.⁣ This is an amazing, feel-good nonfiction book about art.

Vincent and Theo

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

While I don’t usually love non-fiction, this is one of the first books in the genre that really got me hooked. The relationship between Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, was complicated.

Their love for one another was inspiring, though they did fight often as brothers are wont to do. Most of all, I loved the description of the art and new it was a must for novels about art.

Which novels about art are your favorite?

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