14 books like Poussin and the Dance

By Emily A Beeny, Francesca Whitlum-Cooper,

Here are 14 books that Poussin and the Dance fans have personally recommended if you like Poussin and the Dance. 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 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 Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection

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?

The exhibition dedicated to Johannes Vermeer at the Old Master Picture Gallery in Dresden last year was one of the best I have ever seen. Inspired by a recent discovery – a crucial detail in one of the Gallery’s own works had been painted over – the exhibition set out to explore the artist’s work in-depth focusing on this one image. The restoration of the painting and the revelation of the hidden detail led to a re-evaluation of Vermeer’s art. Each room of the exhibition, and chapter of the book, introduces a different aspect of the painting so that, when you finally get to see it and read about it, you have a thorough understanding of its meaning and development, and even of the society in which it was produced.

By Stephan Koja,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer is one of the most famous works of seventeenth-century Dutch art. Preserved at the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, the painting has been restored, in an elaborate process lasting from 2017 to 2021. The removal of a large section of overpainting dating from a later period has profoundly altered the work's appearance and revealed the original composition. To showcase the discovery, the Dresden Gemaldegalerie is now presenting the Girl Reading a Letter along with other masterpieces by Vermeer and a selection of exceptional Dutch genre paintings that reveal…


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 Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure©

Mariah Fox Author Of SAMO©...SINCE 1978: SAMO©...Writings: 1978-2018

From my list on celebrated and controversial artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Who am I?

I ardently began research and writing on Jean-Michel Basquiat in grad school (2004), before his paintings demolished sales records and when he was still somewhat misunderstood and marginalized by perplexed art historians. Since then, his potency and intrigue have blazed a global pop culture inferno. I’ve conducted dozens of interviews, befriended those close to him, memorized his lines, colors, words, and spaces in books and real life, and re-read countless pages. Currently I’m writing and compiling a field guide to his work. All Basquiat publications are imperfect. I hope with sensitivity and intellectual intent, fans can move through their initial impressions to better understand his meaningful motives, inclinations, and artwork.

Mariah's book list on celebrated and controversial artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Mariah Fox Why did Mariah love this book?

No single book on my list is the perfect gateway to Basquiat, but taken as a group, you have a strong primer.

This recommendation includes abundant personal memories, photos, ephemera and artworks from the private collection of Jean-Michel Basquiat, his family, and close associates. After so many publications without input, Basquiat’s sisters finally come out here and share some personal experiences.

Research-wise this book is somewhat useless as his estate was not able to catalog much detailed substance. Yet the works within, which Basquiat withheld in his personal collection—are some of his most brilliant, especially the drawings, dated or not.

The book is also list-worthy because its accompanying KING PLEASURE © exhibit is recent, making this catalog one of the newer Basquiat collectibles available now.

By Lisane Basquiat (contributor), Jeanine Heriveaux (contributor), Nora Fitzpatrick (contributor) , Ileen Gallagher (contributor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jean-Michel Basquiat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Organised by the family of Basquiat, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue feature over 200 never before and rarely seen paintings, drawings, ephemera, and artifacts. The artist s contributions to the history of art and his exploration into our multi-faceted culture incorporating music, the Black experience, pop culture, African American sports figures, literature, and other sources are showcased alongside personal reminiscences and firsthand accounts providing unique insight into Basquiat s creative life and his singular voice that propelled the social and cultural narrative that continues to this day. Structured around key periods in his life, from his childhood and formative years,…


Book cover of The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing

Brett Bourbon Author Of Everyday Poetics: Logic, Love, and Ethics

From my list on the ethics and art of getting lost and being found.

Who am I?

Poems irritated me as a child. They seemed parodies of counting, chants of rhythm, and repetition. I included them in my moratorium against reading fiction. On the other hand, I respected the alphabet, a kind of poem of pure form. It was orderly for no good reason and didn't mean anything. So I concluded that poems were meaningless forms that had their uses, but were not serious. I changed my mind, but it took a while—studying math and science, theology, and then philosophy and literature. I'm now a professor who studies and teaches modern literature and philosophy. I got my Ph.D. from Harvard, became a professor at Stanford, and teach at the University of Dallas.

Brett's book list on the ethics and art of getting lost and being found

Brett Bourbon Why did Brett love this book?

T.J. Clark’s diary explorations of two Poussin paintings in The Sight of Death integrates an acuity of seeing with a searching intelligence that is simultaneously content, historical, personal, and linguistic.

He puzzles through a visceral sense of revelatory permanence in Poussin, a discovery of form in the details of painting: “Aren’t there plenty of moments in life that, whether they last or not, have enough of permanence about them to stand for things as they are, things as the mind conceives them –and not just to stand for them notionally, but have them be visible on their face?” He reveals this face.

An everyday poem is this kind of face.

By T. J. Clark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A renowned art historian confronts the specific powers of painting, and the hold of the visual image on the viewer's imagination

Why do we find ourselves returning to certain pictures time and again? What is it we are looking for? How does our understanding of an image change over time? In his latest book T. J. Clark addresses these questions-and many more-in ways that steer art writing into new territory.

In early 2000 two extraordinary paintings by Poussin hung in the Getty Museum in a single room, Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake (National Gallery, London) and the…


Book cover of Dancing for Degas

Adin Dalton Author Of Fate

From my list on the artistry of ballet and classical music.

Who am I?

P. I. Tchaikovsky is a world-famous composer but few people know anything about him. Much of his life was hidden by the Soviet Union due to his homosexuality. As information finally came to light, the mystery of his death in 1893 became an obsession for me. The truth of it lies beyond the rumors of suicide or cholera, as particular circumstances exposed in my novel clearly show. I am a ballet historian and the writing of Fate was an eight-year endeavor. Readers of Fate can now be the proverbial fly on the wall while Tchaikovsky lives his life and creates his major works.

Adin's book list on the artistry of ballet and classical music

Adin Dalton Why did Adin love this book?

If you've ever found yourself captivated by those colorful, romantic paintings of ballerinas by impressionist Edgar Degas, treat yourself to this fascinating novel. Ms. Wagner brings a particular dancer to life, along with her family, in this fictional account. The world of the Paris Opera in the nineteenth century is yours for the taking in this easy-to-read and very imaginative story. It had special meaning for me because I love that world and had never been immersed in it before. 

By Kathryn Wagner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dancing for Degas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the City of Lights, at the dawn of a new age, begins an unforgettable story of great love, great art—and the most painful choices of the heart.
 
With this fresh and vibrantly imagined portrait of the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas, readers are transported through the eyes of a young Parisian ballerina to an era of light and movement. An ambitious and enterprising farm girl, Alexandrie joins the prestigious Paris Opera ballet with hopes of securing not only her place in society but her family’s financial future. Her plan is soon derailed, however, when she falls in love with the…


Book cover of The Art Forger

Elisabeth M. Lee Author Of Young PRB: A Novel of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

From my list on artists by non-artists.

Who am I?

As a history major and artist I noticed a style of illustrations and paintings that popped up in history books, novels, and poetry collections. I found that the paintings and drawings were just scratching the surface. The lives and struggles of the artists known as Pre-Raphaelites were just as intriguing as the art. I have traveled to the many locations that the Pre-Raphaelites frequented to follow in their footsteps. I've even tried to copy their wet white painting style and was awed by the patience they must have had. I appreciate many art styles and enjoy being transported into the lives of the artists by authors as interested in art and history as I am. 

Elisabeth's book list on artists by non-artists

Elisabeth M. Lee Why did Elisabeth love this book?

Art forgery has always fascinated me. The idea that you can create a 'new' work by an old master and then, maybe, get away with it. Claire is a struggling artist whose one chance at fame had been stolen by a lover. Reduced to painting reproductions of famous paintings for clients to hang in their home she is approached by an art dealer to secretly forge a Degas painting. The money is good enough to silence her scruples and when the painting arrives she immediately recognizes that it is one of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. Already she is having doubts but after beginning her study of the painting she suspects that it, too, is a forgery. Forged art has never been so compelling.

By B.A. Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Almost twenty-five years after the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - still the largest unsolved art theft in history - one of the stolen Degas paintings is delivered to the Boston studio of a young artist. Claire Roth has entered into a Faustian bargain with a powerful gallery owner by agreeing to forge the Degas in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But as she begins her work, she starts to suspect that this long-missing masterpiece - the very one that had been hanging at the Gardner for one hundred years - may…


Book cover of The Painted Girls

Helen Webster Author Of Company Wife

From my list on strong women who have survived restrictions.

Who am I?

I have seen Degas’ astonishing paintings in the Quai d’Orsy in Paris and his wonderful sculptures of ballerinas. So I was immediately drawn to this book. Like most people who admire his incredible work, I had no idea of the pain suffered by the girls who saw the ballet as a way to rise above their pitiful lives. Nor did I know the stories behind the abuse of Degas’ models. It is difficult when we have to try to separate the works of genius from the horrible things geniuses did.

Helen's book list on strong women who have survived restrictions

Helen Webster Why did Helen love this book?

This historical work is fiction but based on the true story of Edgar Degas and his models. It was a revelation for me to learn about the brutish lives led by the dancers in the ballet and the hard lives of most women outside the middle and upper class in Paris in 1878. We are taken behind the scene in the ballet, into cramped, unheated, dirty living quarters, brothels, and prisons. Of the three sisters in the story, only one will manage to make a marriage that will lift her out of the inevitability of having to survive through a life of thievery and prostitution on the mean streets of Paris. Unlike the first four books I recommended, this is not a story of a woman’s triumph, but rather one of how incredibly difficult it was for a girl without the trappings of wealth, to simply survive. 

By Cathy Marie Buchanan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A heartrending, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris and the young woman forever immortalized as muse for Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

1878 Paris. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventeen francs a week, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work as…


Book cover of Killshot

W.A. Winter Author Of The Secret Lives of Dentists

From my list on crime stories of the past 50 years.

Who am I?

I’ve been a long-form journalist for more than 50 years, a voracious reader of both nonfiction and fiction for even longer, and am the author of three true-crime books (as William Swanson) and five suspense novels (as W.A. Winter). I especially love noir fiction, the darker and grittier the better, with complex story lines, multiple characters, adult situations and language, and no happy endings. I’m currently at work on another thriller, this one, like its predecessors, set in post-World War II Minneapolis, where and when I grew up.

W.A.'s book list on crime stories of the past 50 years

W.A. Winter Why did W.A. love this book?

Just about any of Leonard’s several dozen suspense novels could have a top spot in this reckoning, including the better known Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky, and Glitz. My vote for the best goes, however, to Killshot, his dark, deftly plotted, highly comedic 1989 thriller about two bumbling killers and a ballsy middle-aged married couple the killers mistake for easy marks. Armand Degas, a soulful Ojibway known as the Blackbird, has grown tired of being a hit man for the Detroit mob. He’s befriended by a moronic thug named Richie Nix, whose bucket list includes robbing a bank in every state. When they decide that Carmen, a real estate agent, and her steelworker husband Wayne Colson hold the keys to a fortune, they learn that, like the Bible says, the wages of sin is death.  

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The King of Cool returns with another thrilling tale of crime capers.

Arman 'The Blackbird' Degas is a professional hitman: one shot, one kill. But when he's carjacked by ex-con Richie Nix, he finds himself with a lethal partner.

Nix is on his way to shake down a realtor and the Blackbird is along for the ride. But they don't count on Carmen and Wayne Colson getting in their way. Exposed as eyewitnesses, the Colsons are placed in witness protection but soon discover the program contains as many predators as the underworld they're hiding from. But can they outrun the…


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