The Starving Art Historian Gift Guide: Books for Every Coffee Table

Buying books can be risky.  You aren’t sure if the person has already read it, much less if they ever will read it once in their possession.  So, dear reader, imagine a fantasy world in which everyone on your list loves art books.  Without further ado, my picks for this holiday season:

Ruben Toledo's Style Dictionary

1.  For the fashionista

Ruben Toledo, of my post from yesterday fame (just kidding, of international fame), has a delightful book of 138 illustrations.  The Style Dictionary isn’t your standard fashion guide.  Toledo uses his trademark elan and whimsy to document, praise, and make fun of fashion trends throughout the ages.



New York Historical Society's Hudson River School Catalog

2.  For the nature lovin’ Americanophile

I personally think exhibition catalogs make great gifts.  This one is especially special because New York Historical Society’s traveling show is coming to the Columbia Museum of Art in 2011.  The set of gorgeous landscapes will not only please the nature lover in your life, but it will also feed their patriotic side.  After a history of more or less copying Europe’s artistic movements, the Hudson River School marks one of our country’s first independent movements. .

Umberto Ecco's History of Beauty


3.  For your own starving art historian

Art historical survey books are a dime a dozen (unless, of course, you have this one).  History of Beauty is different.  For one, it’s nice to specialize once in a while.  For two, it’s written by Umberto Ecco, who has one of the coolest jobs ever.   I mean, to write erudite best sellers and art critiques!  This little book includes examples of beauty ranging from the Venus of Willendorf to Madonna (that’s Madge, not the biblical one).  If you really want to spoil your art historian, don’t forget to buy On Ugliness as well.

Mini Masters box set

4.  For the little ones

Won’t someone please think of the children?  Yes, I will!  The MoMa’s set of “mini masters” books are a great way to introduce your favorite painters to your child (or nephew, or neighbor’s kid, etc).  The box set includes paintings and accompanying rhymes to get the small set into Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, and Matisse.  Or buy the Picasso book, whose stock is quickly running out, separately.


Taschen's Caravaggio

5.  For the Macho Masculine Manly Man

…or at least for the kind of man I like (which is obviously the best kind).  Taschen’s whopping survey of Caravaggio’s paintings made quite a big splash in the world of art books this year.  The 306 pager packs full color prints in stunning detail.  So why is this manly?  In the words of my boyfriend, “it’s so muscular.”  Also, did you know Caravaggio was an amoral rogue?  Did you know he probably died the way he lived – in a bar fight?  In other words, he’s a man’s man.


Walks Through Lost Paris

6.  For the seasoned traveler

Leonard Pitt’s Walks Through Lost Paris includes diagrams, maps, and histories of Paris’s 19th century transformation from a medieval to modern city.  Pitt dedicated his research to discovering the places that were lost in the renovation, and with this book, you can follow in his footsteps.



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