82 books like Johannes Vermeer

By Stephan Koja,

Here are 82 books that Johannes Vermeer fans have personally recommended if you like Johannes Vermeer. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Carlo Crivelli: Shadows on the Sky

Richard Stemp Author Of The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art

From my list on recent exhibition catalogues.

Who am I?

I have always enjoyed looking at art, and love it when I can help others to enjoy it too. Curators and academics are incredibly knowledgeable, but sometimes theory gets in the way, and academic precision can lead to turgid texts. I’d rather write in a way that is as simple as possible – without being condescending – and so help people to understand art more fully. That’s why I love it when exhibitions bring art together in new ways, encouraging us to look afresh at familiar images, or startling us with something we haven’t seen before.

Richard's book list on recent exhibition catalogues

Richard Stemp Why did Richard love this book?

One of the best ways to keep up with the latest ideas about art is to go to temporary exhibitions curated by the leading minds in each field – which is why I am recommending my favourite catalogues from the past year. Carlo Crivelli is one of my favourite artists, and this particular catalogue is undoubtedly the best thing written about him so far. His work was neglected for decades because Art Historians couldn’t find a way to fit him into a rather restrictive ‘Story of Art.’ The curators wanted to explain what was truly remarkable about him – and they succeeded. Crivelli’s work just happens to be some of the most sophisticated of the 15th century, playing games with picture making that wouldn’t be seen again until the modern era.

Book cover of Poussin and the Dance

Richard Stemp Author Of The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art

From my list on recent exhibition catalogues.

Who am I?

I have always enjoyed looking at art, and love it when I can help others to enjoy it too. Curators and academics are incredibly knowledgeable, but sometimes theory gets in the way, and academic precision can lead to turgid texts. I’d rather write in a way that is as simple as possible – without being condescending – and so help people to understand art more fully. That’s why I love it when exhibitions bring art together in new ways, encouraging us to look afresh at familiar images, or startling us with something we haven’t seen before.

Richard's book list on recent exhibition catalogues

Richard Stemp Why did Richard love this book?

It’s hard to love every artist – we all have different tastes – and I have always had problems with the apparently dry and academic art of Nicolas Poussin. That is, until I saw the exhibition Poussin and the Dance. Not only does it show a more relaxed side to this apparently reserved man, reveling in the fluidity and intimacy of movement, but as an exhibition it was perfectly formed. Every object, whether painting, drawing, sculpture, or vase, had a reason to be there, and each was informed by its presence with the others: a true conversation between artworks that you could enjoy and from which you could learn. And of course, the clarity of the minds which brought these exhibits together is also evident in the writing of the catalogue.

By Emily A Beeny, Francesca Whitlum-Cooper,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Richly illustrated and engagingly written, this publication examines how the pioneer of French classicism brought dance to bear on every aspect of his artistic production.

Scenes of tripping maenads and skipping maidens, Nicolas Poussin’s dancing pictures, painted in the 1620s and 1630s, helped him formulate a new style. This style would make him the model for three centuries of artists in the French classical tradition, from Jacques-Louis David and Edgar Degas to Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso.

Poussin and the Dance, the first published study devoted to this theme, situates the artist in seventeenth-century Rome, a city rich with the…


Book cover of Laura Knight: A Panoramic View

Richard Stemp Author Of The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art

From my list on recent exhibition catalogues.

Who am I?

I have always enjoyed looking at art, and love it when I can help others to enjoy it too. Curators and academics are incredibly knowledgeable, but sometimes theory gets in the way, and academic precision can lead to turgid texts. I’d rather write in a way that is as simple as possible – without being condescending – and so help people to understand art more fully. That’s why I love it when exhibitions bring art together in new ways, encouraging us to look afresh at familiar images, or startling us with something we haven’t seen before.

Richard's book list on recent exhibition catalogues

Richard Stemp Why did Richard love this book?

Some artists, I think, have been unjustly neglected. In 1936, 168 years after it was founded, Laura Knight was the first woman to be elected as a full member of the Royal Academy of Art. In 1965 she was the first woman to have a solo exhibition at the same august institution, and yet today her name is little known. Why is that? Quite simply because she was a woman. Not only that, but her work valued the traditional craft of naturalistic representation precisely when abstraction, and then other forms of art beyond painting, became popular. Last year’s exhibition, the most comprehensive staged so far, together with the superbly written and illustrated catalogue, should go a long way to set the record straight. I think she was a great artist!

By Anthony Spira, Fay Blanchard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A major survey of Dame Laura Knight, first female Royal Academician and popular British artist of the 20th century. Laura Knight (1877-1970) was one of the most famous and popular English artists of the twentieth century. She was the first woman to have a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, in 1965. In the following decades her realist style of painting fell out of fashion and her work become largely overlooked. A new generation has rediscovered her work, finding a contemporary resonance in her depictions of women at work, of people from marginalized communities and her contributions as…


Book cover of Alison Watt: A Portrait Without Likeness: A Conversation with the Art of Allan Ramsay

Richard Stemp Author Of The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art

From my list on recent exhibition catalogues.

Who am I?

I have always enjoyed looking at art, and love it when I can help others to enjoy it too. Curators and academics are incredibly knowledgeable, but sometimes theory gets in the way, and academic precision can lead to turgid texts. I’d rather write in a way that is as simple as possible – without being condescending – and so help people to understand art more fully. That’s why I love it when exhibitions bring art together in new ways, encouraging us to look afresh at familiar images, or startling us with something we haven’t seen before.

Richard's book list on recent exhibition catalogues

Richard Stemp Why did Richard love this book?

To my mind, Alison Watt’s unerring eye and technical skills rank among the best, and conceptually her paintings are equally compelling. Dealing with the complexities of perception, they constantly question the nature of art: what is this magic that paint alone can perform? Her work is an ongoing conversation with the art of the past, and the exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery was her response to the 18th Century portraitist Allan Ramsay. The paintings remind me of exhibits in a trial, or evidence of a forensic examination, focusing on specific details, insisting that we look more closely, enjoying forms and colours, and inviting us to speculate on their relevance to the original subjects. The catalogue, beautifully produced, is a work of art in its own right.

By Julie Lawson, Tom Normand, Andrew O'Hagan

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A unique insight into the ways in which one of today's leading artists is inspired by great works of the past.

In 16 emphatically modern new paintings, renowned artist, Alison Watt, responds to the remarkable delicacy of the female portraits by eighteenth-century Scottish portraitist, Allan Ramsay.

Watt's new works are particularly inspired by Ramsay's much-loved portrait of his wife, along with less familiar portraits and drawings. Watt shines a light on enigmatic details in Ramsay's work and has created paintings which hover between the genres of still life and portraiture.

In conversation with curator Julie Lawson, Watt discusses how painters…


Book cover of Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing

Hugh Aldersey-Williams Author Of Dutch Light

From my list on understanding the Dutch Golden Age.

Who am I?

In my writing about science, I am always keen to include the artistic and literary dimension that links the science to the broader culture. In Huygens, a product of the Dutch Golden Age, I found a biographical subject for whom it would have been quite impossible not to embrace these riches. This context – including painting, music, poetry, mechanics, architecture, gardens, fashion and leisure – is crucial to understanding the life that Huygens led and the breakthroughs he was able to make.

Hugh's book list on understanding the Dutch Golden Age

Hugh Aldersey-Williams Why did Hugh love this book?

The Dutch Golden Age produced some of the world’s greatest art, but – less known – it was also a period of astonishing scientific and technical innovation. Snyder gets to the heart of the intrinsic connection between the worlds of art and science when she examines the lives of two of the greatest innovators who were born in the same month of 1632 and lived and worked in the same tiny city of Delft, and yet who may never have known each other or even met: the painter Vermeer and the pioneer of the microscope, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.

Although it is frustrating that there is no record of the two men having met – we can only conjecture the kind of conversation they might have had, with their common interest in the use of light and the understanding of optical phenomena – this in a way is the point of…

By Laura J Snyder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a summer day in 1674, in the small Dutch city of Delft, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek-a cloth salesman, local bureaucrat, and self-taught natural philosopher-gazed through a tiny lens set into a brass holder and discovered a never-before imagined world of microscopic life. At the same time, in a nearby attic, the painter Johannes Vermeer was using another optical device, a camera obscura, to experiment with light and create the most luminous pictures ever beheld.

"See for yourself!" was the clarion call of the 1600s. Scientists peered at nature through microscopes and telescopes, making the discoveries in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and…


Book cover of Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World

Geoffrey Parker Author Of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

From my list on the 17th Century.

Who am I?

I teach history at The Ohio State University. This project began when I listened in 1976 to a radio broadcast in which Jack Eddy, a solar physicist, speculated that a notable absence of sunspots in the period 1645-1715 contributed to the “Little Ice Age”: the longest and most severe episode of global cooling recorded in the last 12,000 years. The Little Ice Age coincided with a wave of wars and revolution around the Northern Hemisphere, from the overthrow of the Ming dynasty in China to the beheading of Charles I in England. I spent the next 35 years exploring how the connections between natural and human events created a fatal synergy that produced human mortality on a scale seldom seen before – and never since.

Geoffrey's book list on the 17th Century

Geoffrey Parker Why did Geoffrey love this book?

Brook uses artifacts portrayed in six paintings by the Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer to show how, several centuries before the World Wide Web, the local and the global were intimately connected. He surprises his readers by showing that people and goods and ideas moved around the 17th-century world in ways that – rather like us – their ancestors would have considered impossible. Perhaps because Brook is a Canadian historian of China who is familiar with Europe, he provides a truly global history and almost every page contains a “gee whiz” fact. I also love the idea that “Every picture tells a story.”

By Timothy Brook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the epicentre of Delft in the Netherlands Brook takes the paintings of Johannes Vermeer and uses details of them as a series of entry points to the widest circles of world trade and cultural exchange in the seventeenth century. An officer's beaver hat in 'Officer and the Laughing Girl' opens up the story of Champlain's dealing with the native peoples of Canada and the beaver trade. A china dish on a table in another painting uncovers the story of the Chinese porcelain trade. Moving outwards from Vermeer's studio Brook traces the web of trade that was spreading across the…


Book cover of Girl with a Pearl Earring

Rebecca D'Harlingue Author Of The Map Colorist

From my list on 17th-century women.

Who am I?

I find the seventeenth century fascinating, and both of my novels are set in that period. The century was a time of great flux, and I am especially interested in exploring the kinds of things that women might have done, even though their accomplishments weren’t recorded. There is a wonderful article by novelist Rachel Kadish called “Writing the Lives of Forgotten Women,” in which she refers to Hilary Mantel’s comments that people whose lives are not recorded fall through the sieve of history. Kadish says that, “Lives have run through the sieve, but we can catch them with our hands.” These novels all attempt to do that.

Rebecca's book list on 17th-century women

Rebecca D'Harlingue Why did Rebecca love this book?

This book was a phenomenon when it came out, and with good reason.

Chevalier’s words paint a picture of the life of a young girl, Griet, who is working in the house of the artist, Johannes Vermeer in 1660s Delft. In the novel, Griet is the model for the famous painting. The relationship between artist and model, and what they do, and don’t, mean to each other, is complex and intriguing.

The way that Chevalier depicts the restrained interactions between the two seems to mimic Vermeer’s restrained yet visually detailed style.

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Girl with a Pearl Earring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling novel by the author of A Single Thread and At the Edge of the Orchard

Translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film, starring Scarlett Johanson and Colin Firth

Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . .…


Book cover of Chasing Vermeer

Wendy McLeod MacKnight Author Of The Frame-Up

From my list on middle grade that promote a love of art.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with art since I was a kid. When I look at art, I see stories, not just about what I’m seeing, but about what it was like when the painting was created: was the artist tired, grumpy, frustrated? Why’d they paint it the way they did? Sadly, my artistic talent is limited, but fortunately, I can tell stories. After visiting William Orpen’s painting of Mona Dunn at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, I couldn’t help wondering why he made her look so pensive. The only way I could answer that question was by writing my own story about Mona and the other paintings in the gallery!

Wendy's book list on middle grade that promote a love of art

Wendy McLeod MacKnight Why did Wendy love this book?

This book is a modern classic and no wonder – delightful characters, a twisty-turny mystery, and best of all: art. The way Balliett introduces kids to the world of art through puzzles, codes, wordplay, is clever and thrilling and had me completely entranced. The world of art theft is both thrilling and chilling, and this book takes us both places.

By Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Chasing Vermeer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

This bewitching first novel is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure and delivered as a work of art. When a book of inexplicable occurences bring Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen- seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the centre of an international art scandal. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and…


Book cover of Death in Delft

Nina Wachsman Author Of The Gallery of Beauties

From my list on a peak into the world of art and artists.

Who am I?

Having taken up the brush myself, I can attest to some sort of mystical, out-of-body experience that sometimes surfaces as an artist creates. Emotions and senses become directly connected to one’s hands, releasing the unconscious, allowing the artist to bring something to life that was buried deep inside. My favorite class in art school was Aesthetics, which explored the philosophy of art – what possessed the artist to paint – and what passions and beliefs were behind some of the art movements, including Surrealism, Dadaism, and Futurism. Books that delve into the craft and passion behind great works of art are my favorite reads.

Nina's book list on a peak into the world of art and artists

Nina Wachsman Why did Nina love this book?

The artist can be an interesting amateur sleuth in a mystery novel.

In Death in Delft, the painter, Vermeer, sketches the discovery of the body, and helps the main character investigate the death and disappearances of several young girls. An artist notices things in a different way, which can make them an interesting investigator.

For those of us who read and loved The Girl with the Pearl Earring, this is a new slant on Vermeer, as detective.

By Graham Brack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death in Delft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The new historical mystery series you need to get your hands on! Perfect for fans of Andrew Taylor, C J Sansom, S J Parris and Ken Follett.

Three missing girls. Only one body. Where are the others? 1671, DelftThree young girls have been abducted from their homes.

The body of one has been found in a shallow grave. The other two are still missing.

The murder has shocked everyone in the peaceful city of Delft and the mayor is desperate to catch the perpetrator before panic can spread any further.

With the bitterly cold January weather intensifying it is doubtful…


Book cover of A Child's Book of Art: Great Pictures - First Words

Meghan Cox Gurdon Author Of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction

From my list on picture books to build a baby’s brain.

Who am I?

As a journalist, WSJ book critic, and mother of five, I‘ve been perfectly placed to witness the astounding effects of reading aloud. For decades I've been reading to my children (and to my husband, too) every night, often for a solid hour or more. Storytime has been the central civilizing joy of our family life: We’ve bonded emotionally, gone on shared imaginative adventures, and filled our heads with pictures and words. Long ago I knew something big was happening to us, and I felt sure my children were benefitting, but it wasn’t until I began digging around into the behavioral and brain science that I learned just how consequential reading aloud can be. In my book, I lay it all out.

Meghan's book list on picture books to build a baby’s brain

Meghan Cox Gurdon Why did Meghan love this book?

This book hits a kind of non-narrative sweet spot: It doesn’t tell a specific story, but every page-spread is a feast of beauty and interest and there are just enough words sprinkled here and there to encourage parents to supply their own commentary. This particular book happened to be a huge favorite in my family, but any collection that introduces great paintings and different styles of art will do the trick. I love making art part of a baby’s world from the get-go: It awakens the aesthetic senses and gives a child a sense of cultural ownership. Later, seeing a Vermeer or a Picasso, we can hope that child will feel a sparkle of recognition.

By Lucy Micklethwait,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Child's Book of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An introduction to art appreciation exposes young readers to more than one hundred works of art from a wide range of periods, cultures, and artists, and with subjects such as seasons, weather, and animals.


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