Art fiction: it's a thing

I love a good book, especially in the summer holidays. But I don't usually waffle about that here - because this is a design blog. Then I realised, most of my favourite novels are actually about art and artists. So let's discuss.

Art themed books have been popular lately, with novels like The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton taking the world by storm. It is not uncommon that authors enjoy writing about other 'creative types' - because they understand the sort of character that is prepared to pour hours into their craft.

So if you're a bit of a culture vulture too, you might like these reads. These are my top seven novels with an artistic thread.


Vanessa and her Sister by Pria Parmar

A door into the lives of the Bloomsbury Group. The author has cleverly woven together what we know about the real 20th century artists from their letters and diaries - and formed it into a thoughtful and inspiring human story.

Notes on an Exhibition by Patrick Gale

A beautiful and haunting story of the creative soul and drive. Cornwall is the backdrop to the lives that revolve around the protagonist, an artist and mother. Full of evocative descriptions of artwork too.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

I was totally hooked by the suspense of this novel with its interwoven stories and vivid artistic references. Sheds light on the gendered injustices for artistis in the (surprisingly recent) past. Also an inspiring call to action for those with creative block.

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

I adored this book. A real page turner, uniting all that is fascinating about paintings, process and the dark art of forgery - with all that is intriguing about people. Excellent characters are like portraits jumping from the page.

Illyrian Spring by Anne Bridge

One of the least well known and absolute best books I've ever read, words won't do it justice. A very subtle portrayal of an enchanting escape, where art and romance lead the way through the Balkans and towards personal enlightenment for two star-crossed characters.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

An epic read that sticks with you. DT bravely builds a story around characters that are incredibly flawed and yet keeps you yearning for a good ending... one painting ties it all together.

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Such a skilled writer, the pace of this book is a work of art in itself, I could barely put it down. HT creates a rich tapestry of characters and events around the London art scene and you won't want to leave.

The Lancuna by Barbara Kingsolver

An all-time favourite of mine. I reccommend all of BK's books to everyone, but this one where ACTUAL Frida Kahlo is a main character, has to be my favourite. A Mexican fiesta of life awaits you, dive in.

EDIT: In 2019 I also read the wonderful...

Matisse Stories by AS Byatt


Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Any MORE reccommendations...?