Ah, museums. Who doesn’t love losing themselves for a few hours to the arts and artifacts of other times and places? Unfortunately, in times like these, it’s uncertain how soon we can safely return to those beloved institutions that showcase the wonders of fine art. Thankfully, as with many of life’s woes, books can help! If you’re missing the days of wandering through the wings of your favorite fine art museum, these art books are just the thing you’ll need to scratch the itch.
Florence, Italy is a veritable cornucopia of European artwork, with works like Michelangelo's David and the Fountain of Neptune being renowned across the world. Equally as impressive is the city's history as a bastion for great paintings, as documented here in Florence: The Paintings & Frescoes. Of significant note are the frescoes, watercolor paintings that adorn walls and ceilings, such as those that adorn the city's many gorgeous chapels. Chronicling works from before, during, and after the Italian Renaissance, this is a one-stop fine art tome for anyone looking to acquaint themselves with the masterworks of this artistic capital.
Paris is rightfully considered one of the most important art cities in the world, and it is certainly an epicenter of European artwork. From the modern art on display at the Pompidou Centre to the hallowed halls of the Louvre, Paris is an essential destination for art enthusiasts. What The Litte(r) Museums of Paris offers is a close look at the rich wealth of institutions you may not have heard of as often as those other huge names. Emma Jacobs writes about both lesser known artistic institutions, as well as cultural museums like the Institute of the Arab World and scientific museums like those named after Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur. Whatever type of institution you're reading about, this books offers a detailed and intimate look, alongside wonderful illustrations by , making for a great travel companion for those dreaming of the City of Lights.
In addition to being one of the most visited places on Earth and a religious capital of the world, Vatican City is also home to some of the most noteworthy works of fine art on the planet. Perhaps most famously the site of Michelangelo's masterwork on the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican also houses many museums, showcasing centuries of fine art in the form of paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and architecture. In this book, Anja Grebe details almost 1,000 of the artworks found in the Vatican, offering historical context and commentary for pieces from Roman times to the Renaissance and beyond. The Vatican is an essential cultural and artistic destination, and Grebe's journey through the collections makes for one of the best art books you can get your hands on.
When it comes to art and culture, it's difficult to imagine anything you CAN'T find in New York City. Lori Zimmer writes a compelling tribute to the artistic history of the Big Apple in Art Hiding in New York by showcasing some of New York's lesser known work that exists outside the confines of the city's many museums. The art, architecture, and history of New York City are on full display both in Zimmer's descriptive writing and Maria Krasinski's wonderful illustrations. From office buildings to city parks to the streets themselves, art is all around you in New York, and this book does a fantastic job of bottling that feeling in its pages.
What if I told you that you could hold the entire collection of the world's most famous art museum in your hands? That's just what Anja Grebe's The Louvre: All the Paintings offers. This book of fine art showcases each of the Louvre's 3,022 paintings from their permanent collection, accompanying each piece with substantial commentary and history. This collection is divided into the same categories as the four main schools of painting the Louvre showcases in person: Italian, Northern, Spanish, and French. The works are categorized chronologically based on their artists' birth years, so flipping through its pages really does feel like walking through those hallowed Parisian halls.
What to Read Next
D.R. Baker is a writer and musician based in New York City. Their work has appeared at Book Riot, Submittable, HowlRound, and others.