100 books like A Small Unsigned Painting

By Stephen Scheding,

Here are 100 books that A Small Unsigned Painting fans have personally recommended if you like A Small Unsigned Painting. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Museum of the Missing

Kaaron Warren Author Of The Grief Hole

From my list on stolen art.

Why am I passionate about this?

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award and was Guest of Honour at World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019.  She has also been Guest of Honour at Conflux in Canberra and Genrecon in Brisbane.

She has published five multi-award winning novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone) and seven short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. Her most recent short story collection is A Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books. Her most recent novella, Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award. Her stories have appeared in both Ellen Datlow’s and Paula Guran’s Year’s Best anthologies.

Kaaron's book list on stolen art

Kaaron Warren Why did Kaaron love this book?

This book looks at thieves, liars, manipulators and of course the art itself. There’s a section on damaged goods, which taps into one of my obsessions about the difference in time and effort creation versus destruction takes. 

It’s full of pictures, ironic given that most of the pieces depicted are lost, never to be found. The Gallery of Missing Art is beautifully reproduced, and includes such masterpieces as Strindberg’s “Night of Jealousy”, so we can look at the works and marvel. But knowing that these pieces are…somewhere? Hidden away for a small audience, or perhaps destroyed? That’s heart-breaking.  

By Simon Houpt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Museum of the Missing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The masterpieces of art that have been stolen could fill a museum. Museum of the Missing offers readers a rare glimpse of the greatest gallery that never was. Simon Houpt brilliantly recounts the story of its valuable holdings and investigates some of the men and women involved in the thefts. Filled with beautiful illustrations and rarely seen photographs, this intriguing book is also a celebration of the ingenious few who are trying to get these treasures back.


Book cover of Headlong

Jeffrey Hantover Author Of The Three Deaths of Giovanni Fumiani

From my list on what to read when the museum is closed.

Why am I passionate about this?

For four decades, I have written about art for publications in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. I have interviewed, among other artists, Frank Stella, Mary Ellen Mark, Dale Chihuly, Deng Lin (the daughter of Deng Xiaoping), the most celebrated Vietnamese contemporary painters, and the leading Japanese ceramicists. My ideal vacation is to wander the cobblestone streets of Italy, walking into a church to see the art of Caravaggio, Raphael, and Bernini. On a trip to Venice, I saw the immense illusionist ceiling painting by Giovanni Fumiani in the church of San Pantalon. Looking up at angels swirling in heaven, the idea for my second novel was born. 

Jeffrey's book list on what to read when the museum is closed

Jeffrey Hantover Why did Jeffrey love this book?

I am married to an auction veteran and have written on art and antiques in an earlier life so Frayn’s satirical farce hits all the right notes for me. A farce without slamming doors but plenty of misunderstandings and self-inflicted confusion.

Martin Clay, a philosopher turned amateur art historian and art expert, tumbles down the rabbit hole of self-delusion as he convinces himself that a painting he barely glimpsed is a lost Bruegel. He searches countless documents to find the facts that he twists to prove his hunch leading the reader on a deep dive into Dutch political and art history. Moral equivocation, adultery, tax evasion, double-dealing, plot twists and turns—everything a good farce should be.

By Michael Frayn,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Headlong as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Headlong begins when Martin Clay, a young would-be art historian, believes he has discovered a missing masterpiece. The owner of the painting is oblivious to its potential and asks Martin to help him sell it, leaving Martin with the chance of a lifetime: if he could only separate the painter from its owner, he would be able to perform a great public service, to make his professional reputation, perhaps even rather a lot of money as well. But is the painting really what Martin believes it to be? As Martin is drawn further into…


Book cover of The Plundered Past: The Traffic in Art Treasures

Kaaron Warren Author Of The Grief Hole

From my list on stolen art.

Why am I passionate about this?

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award and was Guest of Honour at World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019.  She has also been Guest of Honour at Conflux in Canberra and Genrecon in Brisbane.

She has published five multi-award winning novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone) and seven short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. Her most recent short story collection is A Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books. Her most recent novella, Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award. Her stories have appeared in both Ellen Datlow’s and Paula Guran’s Year’s Best anthologies.

Kaaron's book list on stolen art

Kaaron Warren Why did Kaaron love this book?

This fascinating book not only looks at art stolen by thieves, but also at the business of art museums and what constitutes moral collection. It was written in 1973, so things have changes drastically as far as how we perceive where a treasure belongs, but Meyer already argues for the return of the so-called Elgin Marbles, for example. He has a brilliant table at the end, listing major art thefts 1911-1972 and including comments, all of which deserve a story of their own. For example: 

1953, Rodin bronze, stolen by a student who wanted to “live with it”. 

1959, Daumier painting, in the pocket of a suitcase that was stolen from a train. 

1971, Titian “Holy Conversation”, recovered after dramatic car chase. Thieves also drank communion wine. 

By Karl Ernest Meyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Plundered Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We sell Rare, out-of-print, uncommon, & used BOOKS, PRINTS, MAPS, DOCUMENTS, AND EPHEMERA. We do not sell ebooks, print on demand, or other reproduced materials. Each item you see here is individually described and imaged. We welcome further inquiries.


Book cover of Stolen Treasure: the Hunt for the World’s Lost Masterpieces

Kaaron Warren Author Of The Grief Hole

From my list on stolen art.

Why am I passionate about this?

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award and was Guest of Honour at World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019.  She has also been Guest of Honour at Conflux in Canberra and Genrecon in Brisbane.

She has published five multi-award winning novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone) and seven short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. Her most recent short story collection is A Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books. Her most recent novella, Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award. Her stories have appeared in both Ellen Datlow’s and Paula Guran’s Year’s Best anthologies.

Kaaron's book list on stolen art

Kaaron Warren Why did Kaaron love this book?

I really love this book and could write an entire short story collection inspired by it. It’s the first time I heard about the Amber Room, one of those things that once you know about it, you are obsessed. The authors lead us into caves, through basements, across borders, as they track down the pathways of stolen treasures. The book tells us about the provenance of missing artworks, and what it means to have that space on the wall. 

All of these books have an element of ‘the missing wall’ about them and perhaps that’s one of the things that fascinates me the most about the subject. Sometimes what isn’t there is more meaningful than what is. 

By Konstantin Akinsha,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stolen Treasure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Just as Nazi Germany appropriated works of art - paintings, sculptures and antiques - from all over Europe in 1939 and 1940, so the Soviet army set up "trophy brigades" to transport the same works of art, and many more, to Moscow and Leningrad in 1945. This book by two Russian art historians sets out to reveal how they did this and what happened to these works of art. With the end of the Soviet Union, many of these stolen works are now likely to go on display in Russia or be returned to their rightful owners in Europe. This…


Book cover of Woman on Fire

Lisa Niver Author Of Brave-ish: One Breakup, Six Continents, and Feeling Fearless After Fifty

From my list on making flight time disappear because you feel in the story.

Why am I passionate about this?

As both a lifelong traveler and reader, I cannot start an adventure without a great book. Having owned a Kindle since 2008, I consistently carry a virtual library, curating an assortment of captivating reads for every journey. As a travel journalist, I fly multiple times a month, which amplifies my need and understanding of the perfect in-flight companions; stories that transport and captivate. As an author with a memoir to my name, I appreciate the transformative power of storytelling. This blend of literary passion, frequent travel, and personal authorship has led me on my search for engaging, unforgettable books that mesmerize the reader.  

Lisa's book list on making flight time disappear because you feel in the story

Lisa Niver Why did Lisa love this book?

I could not put down Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr.

This book is a captivating tale of passion, history, and mystery. Set against the backdrop of 1940s Chicago and war-torn Europe, the novel follows the journey of a resilient journalist navigating love and espionage.

Barr's evocative prose and meticulous research transport readers to a bygone era, creating a rich tapestry of emotions. The intricate blend of romance and suspense ensures a thrilling reading experience perfectly suited for the transient nature of air travel.

As you glide through the clouds, let the pages of this book transport you to a riveting tale of love, courage, and intrigue, making your journey truly unforgettable. 

By Lisa Barr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Woman on Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, SOON TO BE A MOVIE PRODUCED BY AND STARRING SHARON STONE A BUZZFEED MUST-READ FOR 2022

A young journalist embroiled in an international art scandal centred around a Nazi-looted masterpiece, forcing the ultimate showdown between passion and possession, lovers and liars, history and truth.

After talking her way into a job in Chicago, young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual assignment: locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years ago. The painting? None other than legendary artist Ernst Engel's most famous work, Woman on Fire. A dying designer covets the portrait…


Book cover of The Improbability of Love

Alison Booth Author Of The Painting

From my list on art theft mystery novels that don’t tell the same old story.

Why am I passionate about this?

What makes me passionate about this topic is my love of art, encouraged by my parents and developed when I was completing an undergraduate degree in architecture. I’m also addicted to mysteries, preferably ones with history thrown into the mix. Born in Australia, I lived for some years in the UK before moving to Canberra. I hold a PhD from the London School of Economics and I’m a professor at the Australian National University. I do hope you enjoy the books on my list as much as I have.

Alison's book list on art theft mystery novels that don’t tell the same old story

Alison Booth Why did Alison love this book?

I first read this book when I was going through a bad period in my life when I felt my work as an academic was going nowhere.

The sprawling, absorbing plot of The Improbability of Love took me to another place. The novel is set in London, a city that I know well, and it has a huge variety of characters from all walks of life. Some of writing is very funny, which cheered me enormously.

The painting in question is by Antoine Watteau, and it was found by our heroine Annie in a junk shop. 

By Hannah Rothschild,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Improbability of Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE BOLLINGER EVERYMAN WODEHOUSE PRIZE FOR COMIC FICTION 2016 SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 A BBC RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB PICK 'an ingenious meditation on the true value of art' Daily Mail 'A deliciously wicked satire ... It's exquisitely written, shimmering with eye-catching detail ... a masterpiece' Mail on Sunday When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by…


Book cover of Fundamentals of Composition

James Gurney Author Of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

From my list on color and painting.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is James Gurney and I've been a professional illustrator for National Geographic and Scientific American for over 40 years. Although I went to art school, everything I know about drawing and painting comes from studying art instruction books, and from sketching directly from nature. I'm best known for writing and illustrating the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series, published in 32 countries and 18 languages. I designed 15 dinosaur stamps for USPS and a set of five dinosaur stamps for Australia Post. My originals have been shown in over 35 solo museum exhibitions. My book Color and Light has sold over 200k copies and was Amazon's #1 bestselling book on painting for over a year.

James' book list on color and painting

James Gurney Why did James love this book?

The book covers basic principles, such as variety, shape, silhouette, edges, unity, rhythm, color, and texture. But his coverage of these familiar ideas is fresh and original, and he provides lots of examples. He avoids laying down rules or laws, because one generation of artists breaks the rules of the previous generation. All of the basic principles are universal enough to have remained in place despite the changing styles throughout history.

By V. A. Mogilevtsev,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fundamentals of Composition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the ENGLISH edition. To buy this book in Russian: https://www.amazon.com/dp/5904957076. | The only textbook on composition approved and recommended by the Russian Academy of Fine Arts. Written by a Head of the Drawing Department and a leading professor of drawing, Vladimir Mogilevtsev. Description: This is the 3rd and last textbook in the series of "Fundamentals of Art". The previous two editions are dedicated to Fundamentals of Drawing and Fundamentals of Painting. In the book Fundamentals of Composition, the author, on the basis of his own creative work and experience working with students, tried to show and explain how…


Book cover of Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters

Philip Steadman Author Of Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces

From my list on perspective, optics, and realistic illusion in art.

Why am I passionate about this?

If I was asked to describe the central theme of my life's work in a phrase, it would be 'geometry in the arts'. I'm an architect originally, now a professor in London, and have always loved drawing and the art of perspective. In the 1990s I became fascinated with the idea that Johannes Vermeer used the camera obscura, an obsession that led to my book Vermeer's Camera. I'm now working on Canaletto's Camera. And I have ideas for yet another book, on perspective, to be called Points of View. I've chosen five books on these topics that I've found most thought-provoking and inspiring.

Philip's book list on perspective, optics, and realistic illusion in art

Philip Steadman Why did Philip love this book?

David Hockney believes, rightly in my opinion, that European artists since the Renaissance have used optical aids - mirrors of different types, the camera obscura, the camera lucida - much more often than conventional art history has allowed. I like and admire this book for the wonderful choice of illustrations, and the deep knowledge and understanding of painting methods that Hockney betrays, with wit and elegance, in the text. His arguments are highly subversive and involve a complete re-thinking of the role of optics in Western art, before photography. I don't go along with all of Hockney's theories. But he has overturned the subject, and has got art historians thinking again.

By David Hockney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Secret Knowledge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Join one of the most influential artists of our time as he investigates the painting techniques of the Old Masters. Hockney’s extensive research led him to conclude that artists such as Caravaggio, Velázquez, da Vinci, and other hyperrealists actually used optics and lenses to create their masterpieces.

In this passionate yet pithy book, Hockney takes readers on a journey of discovery as he builds a case that mirrors and lenses were used by the great masters to create their highly detailed and realistic paintings and drawings. Hundreds of the best-known and best-loved paintings are reproduced alongside his straightforward analysis. Hockney…


Book cover of Glow

Samantha Wilcoxson Author Of Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

From my list on Radium Girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I decided to write about Catherine Donohue, I searched for everything I could find about her, which was surprisingly little. I traveled to Ottawa, Illinois to read her letters held at a local historical society, and I connected with the son of her attorney, who has kindly uploaded his father’s old newspaper clippings onto the internet. The story of America’s Radium Girls is a tragic warning about where greed and corruption can lead, but it is also a story about courage, faith, and perseverance. It is a privilege to be a part of increasing awareness of their fate. After all, HERstory is history, too.

Samantha's book list on Radium Girls

Samantha Wilcoxson Why did Samantha love this book?

When I decided I wanted to read more and write about the Radium Girls, this was the only novel I could find featuring them. It is an accessible, young adult novel with a dual timeline. A contemporary young woman discovers a painting at a thrift shop that reveals glow-in-the-dark elements. The story of a fictional early dial painter is told alongside the struggle of the main protagonist in today’s world.

By Megan E. Bryant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Glow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017 Selection

Lydia is thrilled to join the working girls in the factory, where they paint luminous watch dials for the soldiers fighting in World War I. In the future, these girls will be known as the tragic Radium Girls: factory workers not only poisoned by the glowing paint, but who also had to fight against men who knew of the paint's deadly effect. One hundred years later, Julie, whose life is on hold after high school, becomes intrigued by a series of mysterious antique paintings she finds in a thrift store. When she discovers…


Book cover of Blood Water Paint

Megan E. Freeman Author Of Alone

From my list on to introduce readers to novels in verse.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a poet and author living and writing in Northern Colorado. I love reading (and writing) novels in verse because they invite the reader into an active relationship with the author-poet. The story is co-created through mutual trust and imagination: the reader has to trust the author to provide enough language to reveal the narrative, and the author has to trust the reader to fill in details left by the white space on the page. Through this mutual effort and creative collaboration, dazzling stories emerge.

Megan's book list on to introduce readers to novels in verse

Megan E. Freeman Why did Megan love this book?

Joy McCullough’s Blood Water Paint is historical fiction that tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a Renaissance painter who survived a sexual assault and persevered to see her assailant convicted in an Italian court. If the true aspects of the story weren’t compelling enough, McCullough contrasts her fictional character with the biblical heroines Judith and Susanna, using prose and verse strategically to weave the stories with their counter-narratives. McCullough’s experience as a playwright shines through here and her poetic devices are downright Shakespearean, revealing clues to her characters’ emotional truths through the deceptively simple arrangement of words on the page. This book is astonishingly good and a must-read for anyone intrigued by novels in verse.

By Joy McCullough,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Blood Water Paint as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in painting, art theft, and Australia?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about painting, art theft, and Australia.

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