100 books like Art and Visual Perception

By Rudolf Arnheim,

Here are 100 books that Art and Visual Perception fans have personally recommended if you like Art and Visual Perception. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Children's Drawings (Le Dessin Enfantin)

Ellen Winner Author Of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

From my list on the value of children’s art.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long love affair with the arts. I intended to become an artist, but ultimately became a psychologist researching psychological aspects of the arts. My first book, Invented Worlds, examined the key questions and findings in the psychology of the arts. In Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, I wrote about gifted child artists. My Arts & Mind Lab at Boston College investigated artistic development in typical and gifted children, habits of mind conferred by arts education, and how we respond to works of art. The walls of my home are covered with framed paintings by young children, often side by side paintings by professional artists.

Ellen's book list on the value of children’s art

Ellen Winner Why did Ellen love this book?

This book, originally published in French in 1927 (and now at long last translated into English by psychologist Alan Costall), is the earliest systematic analysis of the odd, nonrealistic features of children’s drawings, and the first to argue against those who considered these oddities as defects to be overcome. Instead, children’s drawings at different stages are shown to have their own logic and intelligence. Luquet opposed any kind of intervention or correction by adults, which he felt might destroy children’s love of drawing. He took children’s drawings seriously, never dismissing them in terms of what they lacked. This highly readable book, with its wonderful illustrations revealing the logic of children’s drawings, has had an enormous influence on how psychologists understand child art.    

By Georges-Henri Luquet, Alan Costall (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children's Drawings (Le Dessin Enfantin) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This title looks at children's drawings in light of modern psychology, focusing on the two main theories - visual realism and intellectual realism - whilst examining the work of Georges-Henri Luquet and arguing that his work goes beyond both theories.


Book cover of Artful Scribbles: The Significance of Children's Drawings

Ellen Winner Author Of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

From my list on the value of children’s art.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long love affair with the arts. I intended to become an artist, but ultimately became a psychologist researching psychological aspects of the arts. My first book, Invented Worlds, examined the key questions and findings in the psychology of the arts. In Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, I wrote about gifted child artists. My Arts & Mind Lab at Boston College investigated artistic development in typical and gifted children, habits of mind conferred by arts education, and how we respond to works of art. The walls of my home are covered with framed paintings by young children, often side by side paintings by professional artists.

Ellen's book list on the value of children’s art

Ellen Winner Why did Ellen love this book?

Most studies of child art describe development towards realism. Artful Scribbles is one of the first accounts to focus on the expressiveness and aesthetics of child art. Developmental psychologist Howard Gardner discusses in depth the puzzle of why the flowering of children’s art (as valued in the West in the last century) does not last. While drawings of 8- or 9-year-olds are more realistic and “accurate” than those of preschoolers, they seem to have lost the exploratory freshness of the art of younger children. This is one of the earliest studies of children’s art to take seriously the idea of the child as an artist and to consider the relationship between child art, modern art, and the art of adolescents and of mature artists.  

By Howard E. Gardner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Psychologists have long understood that the art works of children relate to their intellectual and emotional development but this is the first book to describe the developmental process of drawing. Gardner explores the vital links between childrens art and their emotional, social, and cognitive development.


Book cover of The Innocent Eye

Ellen Winner Author Of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

From my list on the value of children’s art.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long love affair with the arts. I intended to become an artist, but ultimately became a psychologist researching psychological aspects of the arts. My first book, Invented Worlds, examined the key questions and findings in the psychology of the arts. In Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, I wrote about gifted child artists. My Arts & Mind Lab at Boston College investigated artistic development in typical and gifted children, habits of mind conferred by arts education, and how we respond to works of art. The walls of my home are covered with framed paintings by young children, often side by side paintings by professional artists.

Ellen's book list on the value of children’s art

Ellen Winner Why did Ellen love this book?

This book by art historian Jonathan Fineberg will open your eyes to the fundamental connections between young children’s art and the art of famous 20th century modern artists like Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and others. You might be surprised to learn that many of these artists collected children’s drawings and were profoundly influenced by child art. This book will help you understand the images that inspired these modern masters. It will change how you look at both modern art and child art,  and you will come away with a greater appreciation of both.

By Jonathan Fineberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"When I was the age of these children I could draw like Raphael. It took me many years to learn how to draw like these children."--Pablo Picasso, upon viewing an exhibition of children's drawings, as quoted by Sir Herbert Read in 1945 The idea that modern art looks like something a child can do is a long-standing cliche. For some modernists, however, the connection between their work and children's art was direct and explicit. This groundbreaking and heretical book, centered on such modern masters as Klee, Kandinsky, Picasso, and Miro, presents for the first time material from the collections of…


Book cover of Nadia Revisited: A Longitudinal Study of an Autistic Savant

Ellen Winner Author Of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

From my list on the value of children’s art.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a life-long love affair with the arts. I intended to become an artist, but ultimately became a psychologist researching psychological aspects of the arts. My first book, Invented Worlds, examined the key questions and findings in the psychology of the arts. In Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, I wrote about gifted child artists. My Arts & Mind Lab at Boston College investigated artistic development in typical and gifted children, habits of mind conferred by arts education, and how we respond to works of art. The walls of my home are covered with framed paintings by young children, often side by side paintings by professional artists.

Ellen's book list on the value of children’s art

Ellen Winner Why did Ellen love this book?

Nadia was a severely autistic and mentally challenged child who, at age 3, drew horses that in important respects rivalled those by Leonardo da Vinci. Nadia was clearly a case of “savant syndrome” – an individual severely impaired in most areas but with one island of genius-level skill. Psychologist Lorna Selfe first wrote about this amazing case in 1977. In 2011, Selfe tells us what happened to Nadia’s drawing ability as she grew older and why her drawings regressed sharply to a more primitive level. This book will introduce you to the many theories put forth to explain this strange almost eerie phenomenon. It will help you think about the difference between artistic giftedness in the context of autism and mental challenges versus such giftedness in the context of an otherwise typically developing child.

By Lorna Selfe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book re-examines the case of Nadia, discovered as a child aged six, who had been drawing with phenomenal skill and visual realism from the age of three, despite having autism and severe learning difficulties. The original research was published in 1977 and caused great international interest. Nadia Revisited updates her story and reconsiders the theories that endeavour to explain her extraordinary talent.

As well as summarising the central issues from the original case study and presenting her remarkable drawings, the book explains Nadia's subsequent development and present situation in light of the recent research on autistic spectrum disorders and…


Book cover of Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation

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?

Ernst Gombrich's masterpiece, published in 1960 and still in print, follows the drive in Western Art from Ancient Greece and Egypt to the present day, to achieve the illusion of realistic appearance in pictures. Kenneth Clark, himself a most accomplished art historian and writer, described Art and Illusion as 'One of the most brilliant books on art criticism I have ever read." I too admire the way the book combines great erudition with a clear conversational style and an ability to move beyond the usual confines of art history. Gombrich uses findings from psychology to illuminate his argument, supported with a surprising range of illustrations, not just from the fine arts, but from advertising, photography, caricature, and cartoons. Brilliant indeed.

By E.H. Gombrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Considered a great classic by all who seek for a meeting ground between science and the humanities, Art and Illusion examines the history and psychology of pictorial representation in light of present-day theories of visual perception information and learning. Searching for a rational explanation of the changing styles of art, Gombrich reexamines many ideas on the imitation of nature and the function of tradition. In testing his arguments he ranges over the history of art, noticing particularly the accomplishments of the ancient Greeks, and the visual discoveries of such masters as Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, as well as the…


Book cover of Visual Thinking

Frank Jacobus Author Of Archi Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture

From my list on design sensing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a designer, a teacher, a father, a husband, and a friend. I love beautiful things and personally want to know why I find certain things more beautiful than others. I love learning about the world and finding connections between everyday experience and art. When I say “art” I really am blending art, design, architecture, landscape architecture, product design, etc. I believe everything is connected in some way. If I were to pigeonhole myself in any way I would call myself a generalist design thinker. I draw, I write, I make little objects, I make big objects – I see very little difference in any of these things.

Frank's book list on design sensing

Frank Jacobus Why did Frank love this book?

This book outlines how the visual field operates at a psychological level.

I am an architect and cannot believe that we don’t teach straight from this and other Arnheim books more often. If you want to know what is happening to you, why you get chills up your spine when looking at art, read this book.

Arnheim is a psychologist, not a designer, so he breaks art down from this perspective.

By Rudolf Arnheim,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For thirty-five years Visual Thinking has been the gold standard for art educators, psychologists, and general readers alike. In this seminal work, Arnheim, author of "The Dynamics of Architectural Form", "Film as Art", "Toward a Psychology of Art", and "Art and Visual Perception", asserts that all thinking (not just thinking related to art) is basically perceptual in nature, and that the ancient dichotomy between seeing and thinking, between perceiving and reasoning, is false and misleading. This is an indispensable tool for students and for those interested in the arts.


Book cover of About Looking

Sallie Tisdale Author Of The Lie about the Truck: Survivor, Reality TV, and the Endless Gaze

From my list on the existential crisis of looking in a mirror.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I’ve always been interested in ambiguity and ambivalence. How does that apply to the self? What does it mean to present myself to others? How do I appear to the world and how close is that to what I see myself to be? Are we ever truly seen—or willing to be seen? In a world where cameras exist everywhere and we are encouraged to record rather than simply be, how do we look in a mirror? Hannah Arendt said that we could tell reality from falsehood because reality endures. But I feel that nothing I experience endures; nothing remains the same, including the reflection. If anything lasts, it may be my own make-believe. Everything I write is, in some way, this question. Who is that?

Sallie's book list on the existential crisis of looking in a mirror

Sallie Tisdale Why did Sallie love this book?

This is a book of essays about the act of looking, especially looking at photographs and paintings and animals and other people. Thus these are essays about history, memory, suffering, beauty, and the self. Berger had a generous spirit; he wrote often about the lives of peasants and spent the last forty years of his life in rural France. Berger gazed upon the world in all its forms with composure and curiosity. 

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a novelist, essayist, and cultural historian, John Berger is a writer of dazzling eloquence and arresting insight whose work amounts to a subtle, powerful critique of the canons of our civilization. In About Looking he explores our role as observers to reveal new layers of meaning in what we see. How do the animals we look at in zoos remind us of a relationship between man and beast all but lost in the twentieth century? What is it about looking at war photographs that doubles their already potent violence? How do the nudes of Rodin betray the threats to…


Book cover of Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century

Barry Sandywell Author Of Dictionary of Visual Discourse: A Dialectical Lexicon of Terms

From my list on beginning the study of visual culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm currently an Honorary Fellow in Social Theory at the University of York, U.K. For more than five decades I've been working to promote more reflexive perspectives in philosophy, sociology, social theory, and sociological research. I've written and edited many books in the field of social theory with particular emphasis upon questions of culture and critical research in the expanding field of visual culture. Recent projects include Interpreting Visual Culture (with Ian Heywood), The Handbook of Visual Culture, and an edited multi-volume textbook to be published by Bloomsbury, The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture. The passion to understand the thought and visual culture of both the ancient and modern world continues to inform my work. 

Barry's book list on beginning the study of visual culture

Barry Sandywell Why did Barry love this book?

Crary’s work provides a theoretical and empirically informed synthesis of the work of theorists like Berger, Debord, Baudrillard, Barthes, and Sontag. Like these earlier writers, the technological transformations of visual culture are at the heart of the social transformations of the modern world. To understand modernity is thus first to make sense of its visual logics, procedures, and practices. This general argument allowed the author to enter the granular historical details of how seeing and 'observation’ have become essential to the concerns of modern life. What he calls 'techniques of the observer’ are in fact the core sensory apparatus that has helped to shape the institutions and practices of modern life.

What can be visualized is correlated to the technical affordances and historical development of representational practices. This makes technologies of the visual central to social analysis. Some of the most powerful drivers of modern life are thus linked to…

By Jonathan Crary,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jonathan Crary's Techniques of the Observer provides a dramatically new perspective on the visual culture of the nineteenth century, reassessing problems of both visual modernism and social modernity. This analysis of the historical formation of the observer is a compelling account of the prehistory of the society of the spectacle.

In Techniques of the Observer Jonathan Crary provides a dramatically new perspective on the visual culture of the nineteenth century, reassessing problems of both visual modernism and social modernity.

Inverting conventional approaches, Crary considers the problem of visuality not through the study of art works and images, but by analyzing…


Book cover of The Mind's Eye

M. Leona Godin Author Of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

From my list on blindness and the brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

Thanks to a degenerative retinal eye disease, I’ve lived on pretty much every notch of the sight-blindness continuum. While going blind super slowly I’ve engaged with the science of seeing and not-seeing as an  academic and artist for about 25 years. I like to say that there are as many ways of being blind as there are of being sighted, there are just fewer of us. Besides teaching literature and humanities courses at NYU, I’ve lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at universities and institutions around the country. I love sharing stories about the brain on blindness, and hope you find my recommendations as fascinating as I do.

M.'s book list on blindness and the brain

M. Leona Godin Why did M. love this book?

For me, thinking about blindness and the brain all started with an essay by Oliver Sacks called “To See and Not See” (An Anthropologist on Mars). In The Mind’s Eye Sacks picks up some of the threads of that earlier essay and goes deep into how seeing is not just a matter of having functioning eyes. From the pianist who could  suddenly no longer read music to blind people (like myself) who still consider themselves very visual, these neurological tales are intellectually intriguing and emotionally compelling. Sacks even includes his own journal of vision loss as one of the case studies. But whether he is the patient or the doctor, his distinct voice and personal connection to his subject matter has had a huge influence on my own writing.

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mind's Eye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How does the brain perceive and interpret information from the eye? And what happens when the process is disrupted?

In The Mind's Eye, Oliver Sacks tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities: the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, the sense of sight. For all of these people, the challenge is to adapt to a radically new way of being in the world - and The Mind's Eye is testament to the myriad…


Book cover of Zoom

Barbara Lehman Author Of The Red Book

From my list on wordless with surreal or magical realism elements.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love wordless books immoderately, and I also love books that have meta, surreal, or magical realism elements. This list combines these two features! I was personally so happy that The Red Book was described in a review as “a wordless mind trip for tots,” and I think all the books on this list would perfectly fit that description (and much, much more!) too.

Barbara's book list on wordless with surreal or magical realism elements

Barbara Lehman Why did Barbara love this book?

This book never fails to astound me with its visual surprises. I have looked at it at least a hundred times, and each time I cannot stop turning the pages to see what is next, despite already knowing! The art is superbly drawn, and has the perfect amount of rich detail to savor while “zooming” before we come to a satisfying rest at the contemplative ending.

By Istvan Banyai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As seen on the SERIAL podcast, season 2, episode 1 ("Dustwun")!

Open this wordless book and zoom from a farm to a ship to a city street to a desert island. But if you think you know where you are, guess again. For nothing is ever as it seems in Istvan Banyai's sleek, mysterious landscapes of pictures within pictures, which will tease and delight readers of all ages.

"This book has the fascinating appeal of such works of visual trickery as the Waldo and Magic Eye books." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Ingenious."-- The Horn Book


5 book lists we think you will like!

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