Summer Reading List: 10 Art Inspired Novels

Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde It is impossible to compile a list of novels about art without mentioning Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, a timeless classic set in Victorian London, which tells the story of a young man selling his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty, leading to his complete moral disintegration. Wilde’s masterful prose examines the relationship between art and reality, highlighting the dynamics at play between the artist and their subject, and the interaction between ethics and aesthetics.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
My Name is Red (1998) by Orhan Pamuk My Name is Red is an unforgettable murder mystery, set amid the splendour of sixteenth century Istanbul, from the Nobel prizewinning author, Orhan Pamuk. In the late 1590s, the Sultan secretly commissions a great book: a celebration of his life and his empire, to be illuminated by the best artists of the day in the European manner. At a time of violent fundamentalism where figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this is a dangerous proposition. Even the illustrious circle of artists are not allowed to know for whom they are working. But when one of the miniaturists is murdered, their Master has to seek outside help and the only clues lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is an unforgettable tale of suspense, and an artful meditation on love and deception.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier     
Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999) by Tracey Chevalier Set in 17th century Holland, this bestselling novel was inspired by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and his famous painting of the unknown sitter Girl with a Pearl Earring. The story follows a 16-year-old Dutch girl called Griet who becomes a maid in the house of Johannes Vermeer. Her perceptive manner and interest in art attracts the painter’s attention, and Griet soon becomes a muse for her master. However, their growing intimacy spreads disruption and jealousy within the ordered household, as well as the world beyond. The book explores questions of creativity, gender, the notion of artistic genius, and the changing role of the artist in society.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
The Line of Beauty (2004) by Alan Hollinghurst In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: Conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby (whom Nick had idolised at Oxford) and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions. Winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Line of Beauty is a Masterpiece that defines a decade, exploring with peerless style a young man’s collision with his own desires, and obsession with art and beauty.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt     
The Goldfinch (2013) by Donna Tartt This richly told coming-of-age story, follows the life of thirteen-year-old Theodore Decker who is left parentless after an accident that tears his life apart. After being taken in by the family of a wealthy friend, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of his mother a painting by the Dutch Golden Age artist, Carel Farbtitius, The Goldfinch. Serving as a singular source of hope, this small masterpiece follows Theo as he moves from New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam and into the criminal underworld. The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph - a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: How to be Both by Ali Smith
How to be both (2014) by Ali Smith Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. The book tells two stories: that of a teenage girl in the 1960s and of a 15th-century Renaissance artist, Francesco del Cossa. These two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn but their stories are left to chance. Two different versions of the book were published simultaneously with the stories printed in different orders. For Smith, this also is the power of the fresco: many layers, simultaneously. Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novel is like nothing else.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton     
The Miniaturist (2014) by Jessie Burton Set in in 17th century Amsterdam, a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion 18-year-old country girl Nella Oortman arrives at the grand house of her new husband, the wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. She steps into a house of secrets held by Brandt’s stern sister Marin, the servants Cornelia and Otto, and Brandt himself. Brandt gives her an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. Engaging the services of an elusive miniaturist to add realistic furnishings, these tiny creations begin to mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways. Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton's debut novel is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: Second Place by Rachel Cusk
Second Place (2021) by Rachel Cusk From the acclaimed author of the Outline trilogy, Rachel Cusk’s latest book is a loose fictional retelling of Lorenzo in Taos, a 1932 memoir by the American socialite and patron of the arts Mabel Dodge Luhan. It follows the story of a female writer who invites a famed artist to visit the remote costal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life.  But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma—and disrupts the calm of her secluded household. This novel provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift—and to destroy.
These last two books might not be novels but we couldn’t leave them off as they are two of our favourite reads of all time.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: Just Kids by Patti Smith     
Just Kids (2010) by Patti Smith In Just Kids, Patti Smith's first book of prose, the celebrated American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City in the late sixties and seventies. Amongst the backdrop of the Chelsea Hotel as well as Max's Kansas City, Scribner’s Bookstore and Warhol’s Factory, the two artists are swept up in fame as their path’s cross legendary figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, Sam Shepherd, William Burroughs. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work.
Summer Read 2022 Art Inspired Novels and Books: Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (2011) by Edmund de Waal 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them bigger than a matchbox: renowned sculptor Edmund de Waal was entranced when he first encountered the collection in his great uncle Iggie's Tokyo apartment. When he later inherited the netsuke, they unlocked a story far larger and more dramatic than he could ever have imagined. From a burgeoning empire in Odessa to fin de siècle Paris, from occupied Vienna to Tokyo, de Waal traces the netsuke's journey through generations of his remarkable family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century.

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