Artists often find inspiration in the work of their fellow artists, regardless of medium; musicians will see a painting and a song will emerge, or a painter might find his or her muse in a classic novel. Writers are no different, often finding rich material in the world of visual arts. The thought motivated us to curate this themed list, comprised of books that are in some way connected to painters and the works they create. Inspired by John Banville’s latest book, The Blue Guitar, which is now available in paperback, our collection of titles includes everything from a tale about a high-profile art scam to the story of a young woman who stumbles upon a priceless masterpiece. We guarantee that there is something for every book club to enjoy in this selection!
The Blue Guitar by John Banville
“Beautiful, heartbreaking.” —The Washington Post
Oliver Otway Orme—a man equally self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating—is a painter of some renown, and a petty thief who has never been caught . . . until now. Unfortunately, the purloined possession in question is the wife of the man who was, perhaps, his best friend. Fearing the consequences, Olly has fled—not only from his mistress, his home, and his wife, but from the very impulse to paint, and from his own demons. He sequesters himself in the house where he was born, and thus, he sets about trying to uncover the answer to how and why things have turned out as they did.
“Mischievous . . . funny, astute. . . . As unexpectedly generous as it is entertaining. . . . Christensen is a witty observer of the art universe.” —The New York Times
Oscar Feldman, the renowned figurative painter, has passed away. As his obituary notes, Oscar is survived by his wife, Abigail, their son, Ethan, and his sister, the well-known abstract painter Maxine Feldman. What the obituary does not note, however, is that Oscar is also survived by his longtime mistress, Teddy St. Cloud, and their daughters. As two biographers interview the women in an attempt to set the record straight, the open secret of his affair reaches a boiling point and a devastating skeleton threatens to come to light.
“Waldman is a wonderfully imaginative writer. . . . A triumph.” —The Washington Post
In 1945, on the outskirts of Salzburg, American soldiers discover a train filled with unspeakable riches. Jack Wiseman is the lieutenant tasked with guarding this treasure in the aftermath of war—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian woman who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie, and charges her with returning it to its owner. As Natalie searches for the woman whose portrait and unknown fate have come to haunt her, she will come to understand the secret her grandfather took to his grave.
“A delightful blend of crime and cuisine.” —San Francisco Chronicle
In Chasing Cézanne, Peter Mayle takes us on a wild pursuit through the South of France. There are stopovers in the Bahamas and England, and in New York, where that glossiest of magazines, Decorating Quarterly, reflects the cutting-edge trendiness of its editor, Camilla Jameson Porter. It is Camilla who has sent our hero, Andre Kelly, to Cap Ferrat to take glamorous photographs of the houses and treasures of the rich and famous. He happens to have his camera at the ready when he spots a Cézanne being loaded onto a plumber’s truck near the home of an absent collector. Odd, thinks Andre. And in no time he’s on the trail of a state-of-the-art art scam, chasing Cézanne.
“A moving story about love, celebrity, and the redemptive power of art.” —The New York Times Book Review
After having shot a man in a Santa Fe bar, the famous artist Jim Stegner served his time and has since struggled to manage the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. Now he lives a peaceful life . . . until the day that he comes across a hunting guide beating a small horse, and a brutal act of new violence rips his quiet life right open. Pursued by men dead set on retribution, Jim is left with no choice but to return to New Mexico and the high-profile life he left behind, where he’ll reckon with past deeds and the dark shadows in his own heart.
“[A] bright, champagne-fizzy satire of modern romance, human avarice, and the booming international art market.” —Entertainment Weekly
Annie McDee lives in a shabby London flat, works as a chef, and is struggling to get by. While rummaging through a secondhand shop for a gift for an unsuitable lover, a dusty, anonymous old painting catches her eye. After spending her meager savings on the artwork, Annie prepares an exquisite birthday dinner for two—only to be stood up. The painting becomes hers, and Annie begins to suspect that it may be more valuable than she’d thought. Soon she finds herself pursued by parties who would do anything to possess her picture. Annie’s search for the painting’s identity will lead her to some of the darkest secrets of European history—and to the possibility of falling in love again.
“Kazuo Ishiguro is . . . not only a good writer but also a wonderful novelist.” —The New York Times Book Review
In the face of the misery in his homeland, the artist Masuji Ono was unwilling to devote his art solely to the celebration of physical beauty. Instead, he put his work in the service of the imperialist movement that led Japan into World War II. Now, as the mature Ono struggles through the aftermath of that war, his memories of his youth and of the “floating world”—the nocturnal world of pleasure, entertainment, and drink—offer him both escape and redemption, even as they punish him for betraying his early promise. Indicted by society for its defeat and reviled for his past aesthetics, he relives the passage through his personal history that makes him both a hero and a coward but, above all, a human being.