April 7, 2021

Top Art History Books for Beginners

Nancy Reyner
—Lauren Groff is Guest Author on Nancy Reyner’s blog, with this article.
Art History can get complicated. To fully appreciate and understand the history of art we need to go beyond just memorizing artists, the titles of their most famous pieces, and the different styles for each era. Art is always a direct reflection of those, yet also requires a working understanding of history and culture. A good art history book does it all. Check out my list below of the best ones and gain a greater appreciation of art throughout human history.

Top Art History Books for Beginners

1. Art Through the Ages – by Helen Gardner

This authoritative source is now in its 15th edition. Initially published in 1926, it is still considered one of, if not the best, books available on art history. Of note, Art Through the Ages is a textbook aimed at college and university students and may not be suitable for casual reading. Nevertheless, this classic starts by looking at the birth of art in ancient times and goes all the way through to contemporary art.

Best Books on Art History

Photo: Andrew Neel from Pexels

2. The Art Book – by a compilation of multiple authors

A compact classic on the topic of art history, The Art Book includes writings from curators, critics, artists, historians, and academics. Along with the variety of texts, The Art Book includes colorful full-page images, which help enhance learning.
3. The Story Of Art – by H. Gombrich

Considered by some to be the bible of western art history, The Story of Art is thorough and comprehensive, yet easy to read and jargon-free. “One of its best features is its easy-to-understand background on all the art movements that most people have likely heard of but are unsure of what they are exactly,” writes Rick Jile, a writer at Essayroo and State Of Writing.

Best Books on Art History

Photo: Dom J. from Pexels

4. Ways Of Seeing – by John Berger

In this book Berger takes a somewhat different approach to art by focusing on what and how we see the subject in artwork. It is this focus that makes this book one of the best when it comes to art history as it gives us further insight into the way culture and society influence our ability to see and interpret art.

Unlike some other art history books, Berger takes some time to speak about aesthetics and the concept of art itself. What is art? What separates art from non-art? These questions may seem unnecessary at times, but they are still very perplexing, and Berger does his best to offer some food for thought on the matter.

5. Theories Of Modern Art – by B. Chipp

Theories of art are not the standard art history text that goes through a chronological overview of movements and artists. “In fact, it is far from this, and provides readers with a different type of insight through the use of letters, musings, writings, and essays by famous artists, art critics, and historians,” writes Dereck Brun, an art expert at Paperfellows and OXEssays.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Theories of Modern Art is the collection of letters from famous artists such as Van Gogh and the different manifestos, such as Gauguin’s manifesto on his theory of symbols and surrealism.

6. The Power of Art – by Simon Schama

The Power Of Art is a somewhat controversial book, and not everyone likes the approach Schama has taken due to his personality, opinions, style, which are all over his work, and he makes absolutely no apologies for it. Nevertheless, the book provides an interesting perspective into the life of ten famous artists and, in some cases, reads more like a drama than an art history book.

7. Art History and Its Methods – by Eric Fernie

In this book Fernie provides a fascinating look at how art and art history can be applied to specific fields such as symbolism, formalism, and semiotics. As with some other books on this list, Art History And Its Methods really gets at the core of what art means to people and how we interact with it. We learn that it is no accident that even the oldest known civilizations spent time creating and preserving art.

Top Photo: Polina Zimmerman from Pexels


About the Author

Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff is an art writer at Do My Assignment and Write My Paper. While her essays cover various topics, she tends to focus on topics related to creativity and art. In her spare time, she also creates content for Boomessays.

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April 7, 2021


  1. doneads

    “The Story of Art” by E.H. Gombrich – This classic book is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in art history. It covers a broad range of art history, from ancient civilizations to contemporary art, and is written in an engaging and accessible style. I recommend beginners should read this first.

    • Nancy Reyner

      I agree! The book you mentioned is one I studied while at art school. It is terrific!
      Thank you for posting your comment.

  2. Olivia James

    I’m not an art history book lover, I usually read books related to technology, digital marketing, financial stability, good habits, money-making ideas, storytelling, and poetry. But after reading this blog my perspective has been changed. Your word keeps pushing me to read an art history book. It’s all about the presentation of your thoughts which will hit others to create an emotion or feeling. I will definitely be going to read one of the above-mentioned art pieces.

  3. Jackmary

    A compact classic art book on the subject of art history, the artbook contains works by curators, critics, artists, historians, and scholars. In addition to various texts, the bachelor thesis writing service contains colorful full-page images to facilitate learning.

  4. The Design Expert

    Great post! You shared an amazing list of top art books. As a beginner I really appreciate your wok.


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