As we count down the final weeks of 2021, we take a look back at all that has creatively inspired and artistically educated us. What better way to do it than by looking at the books that have been published this year? So we’ve put together an amazing guide to some of the best art books around.
Our book recommendations include educational art books to read, photo books for admiring beautiful images, inspirational books for cultivating creativity, and coffee table books that stand out. If you’re creative at heart, this list will help you find a book guaranteed to get your creativity flowing, while also gaining an abundance of artistic skills. Some of the best art books to read aren’t just limited to artists, they cover art history books, drawing tips, street photography, and graphic design books, so designers of any profession can better understand their profession.
Here’s our handpicked selection of the best art books of 2021:
The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Claire
In this beautiful multicolored volume, Kassia St. Clair tells the unique and particular stories of 75 fascinating colors. She has done extensive research on tints, dyes and shades; and sharing where they came from, presenting a surprising study of human history. These stories cross vividly art, war, fashion and politics; portraying our culture in a vivid way.
Street portraits by Dawoud Bey
In a series of portraits taken from 1988 to 1991, Dawoud Bey beautifully challenged racial stereotypes, revealing his black subjects both intimately and openly to the world. With his camera and a unique Polaroid film that created an instant print and a reusable negative, Bey took to the streets to ask African Americans to pose for him. He created a safe space for self-presentation and gave each subject a little black and white Polaroid impression of themselves as a way of giving something back to the community.
Tattoo Years 1730 -1970 by Henk Schiffmacher
This book is a combination of a history book, art book and dissertation in one. In this book, Henk Schiffmacher shares with us the history of tattoos and the many adventures in creating one of the largest tattoo collections in the world. The variety of his collection is represented in over 700 images throughout the book, amassing tattoo designs, photographs, drawings and artifacts from around the world.
From thread to needle: the contemporary art of embroidery by Charlotte Vannier
This book explores 80 international artists, their creative paths, their influences, their challenges and the messages they want to convey. From thread to needle presents embroidery in contemporary art and illustrates all the ways in which craftsmanship has been accepted as a form of creative expression.
Fabric of a Nation: American Quilts Stories by Pamela Parmal, Jennifer M. Swope, Lauren D. Whitley and Thatcher Ulrich
Fabric of a Nation: American Quilts Stories is a collection of over 400 years of textile art. The book covers 58 works that share the personal stories of their creators and owners and make connections to larger narratives of trade, immigration, industry, land and cultural expansion.
Street art in the time of Corona by Xavier Tapies
This extraordinary condensed volume captures the heroism, strangeness, frustration and desire for freedom during the coronavirus pandemic. From LA to Paris, from Vienna to São Paulo and many others, no one has quite described the range of emotions that the world has experienced as the street performers of the world.
A large, important art book (now with women) by Danielle Krysa
If you’ve ever walked through a museum or browsed art books before, chances are you’ve wondered where all the female artists are. A large, important art book (now with women) challenges the paradigm of a male dominated art world by showcasing the work of talented contemporary female artists and spotlighting pioneering female artists of the past. It also provides thoughtful creative prompts that will bring out the inner artist in everyone.
Frida Kahlo. Complete paintings by Luis-Martin Lozano, Andrea Kettenmann and Marina Vazquez Ramos
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is arguably the best-known female artist in history, and her pioneering work and unique image have been admired for decades. In Frida Kahlo. Complete paintings, the artist’s life is told through a detailed illustrated biography supplemented by photos, drawings, letters and diary entries from Kahlo herself. It also brings together the largest collection of Kahlo paintings to date, including works that have already been lost or have not been exhibited for over 80 years.
Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji by Andreas Marks
Legendary Japanese woodcutter Katsushika Hokusai has an undeniable connection to Mount Fuji. This book shares the great deceased’s fascination with the sleeping volcano through its original series of 36 prints plus the additional 10 added later by the artist. The brilliant collection also includes 114 color variations, capturing the artist’s obsession with Mount Fuji while showcasing his admiration for the “countryside, cities, people, and serene natural beauty of 19th-century Japan.”
Everything is beautiful by Alma W. Thomas
As the first black woman to exhibit a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, artist Alma Thomas was a pioneer in her field. His vibrant and colorful abstract works are brought together in Alma W. Thomas. Everything is beautiful. This retrospective of Thomas’ work features selections of his rarely seen theatrical creations, sculptures, watercolors and family photographs, demonstrating the artist’s pursuit of beauty in all facets of his life.
Color scheme by Edith Young
Color surrounds us in everything we see, but we rarely stop to think about how much it has influenced our visual culture. In Color scheme Author Edith Young explores the story of 40 color palettes with originality and humor, forcing us to rethink our way of seeing the world around us. Whether she’s examining shades of blush pink or Prince’s colorful concert costumes, Young challenges us to take a second look at the color.
Outside the walls by Sara Waldorf and Annelisa Stephan
Amid a global pandemic that has forced everyone to return home, the Getty and other museums around the world have challenged people to recreate iconic works of art with nothing more than household items currents. Outside the walls brings together some of the best and most creative pieces that have united and thrilled us during these trying times. From a version of Van Gogh Starry Night Made from spaghetti to Frida Kahlo’s selfies recreated with pets and toilet paper, these funky tributes are sure to keep you entertained whether or not you’re stuck at home.
Check out our page on Bookshop to find an art book that will cultivate your inner creativity.
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