Share Creativity Chronicles: 7 Books About Art and Artists

Creativity Chronicles: 7 Books About Art and Artists

Whether it be painting, photography, writing, or music, artistic expression comes as naturally as breathing for the characters in these novels. Pick up one of the below works of fiction and follow the journey of artists – from powerful groundbreakers to hidden recluses. Art has the power to completely transform a person’s life and give voice to one’s feelings. Just be wary; the wildly unique power of art has even been shown to drive some mad…  


Feast Your Eyes
by Myla Goldberg

FEAST YOUR EYES follows the life of Lillian Preston. Lillian discovered photography in high school and soon after rejected her parents’ expectation of attending college and marrying. Beginning a new life in New York City in 1955, Lillian falls into an unexpected debacle. After a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter, Lillian is arrested and charged. While Lillian grapples with this unwanted spotlight, she also attempts prove herself as a legitimate female artist of her time.

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Feast Your Eyes
Myla Goldberg

ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019

2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Finalist

2019 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

“A daringly inventive parable of female creativity and motherhood” (O, The Oprah Magazine) from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season, about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood—a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.

Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: “America’s Worst Mother, America’s Bravest Mother, America’s Worst Photographer, or America’s Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking.” After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school’s photo club, Lillian rejects her parents’ expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter’s sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives, and especially Lillian’s career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.

“A searching consideration of the way that the identities and perceptions of a female artist shift over time” (The New Yorker), Feast Your Eyes shares Samantha’s memories, interviews with Lillian’s friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian’s journals and letters—a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity. Myla Goldberg has gifted us with “a mother-daughter story, an art-monster story, and an exciting structural gambit” (Lit Hub)—and, in the end, “a universal and profound story of love and loss” (New York Newsday).

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MENTIONED IN:

Creativity Chronicles: 7 Books About Art and Artists

By Holly Claytor | March 26, 2020

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The Clockmaker's Daughter
by Kate Morton

After a little girl is abandoned on the streets of Victorian London, she grows up to become a thief and an artist’s muse. Following her eighteenth birthday, this girl travels alongside a group of artists to the beautiful Upper Thames. But after a woman is killed and another goes missing, the truth begins to muddle, leaving everyone in uncertainty for over a century. In this new time period, another young woman is drawn to Birchwood Manor and its dark secrets about the artists are finally revealed.  

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The Clockmaker's Daughter
Kate Morton

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The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt

THE GOLDFINCH begins with Theo Decker surviving an accident that took the life of his mother. After his father abandons him and Theo is taken in by a family friend, he clings to anything that brings comfort. A mysterious painting in his new home consistently reminds him of his beloved mother, and ultimately spurs a lifelong interest in art – specifically the unground world of artists. Topped with vivid characters an intense emotion, THE GOLDFINCH explores Theo’s life as an alienated and in love artist trapped in a dangerous situation.  

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The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt

The novel that took the world by storm and won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is (finally!) out in paperback. A mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, it is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

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The Woman Upstairs
by Claire Messud

Nora Eldridge has abandoned her ambitions of becoming a successful artist and subjects herself to living a mundane life. But when Reza, the child of a Lebanese scholar and Italian artist, walks into her elementary classroom, Nora’s life changes. Nora is completely infatuated by Reza’s family and consistently exceeds the boundaries between them. Suddenly, after a shattering betrayal readers are left to discover that someone is not who she appears to be.  

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The Woman Upstairs
Claire Messud

The Woman Upstairs is a masterly portrait of Nora Eldridge, a thirty-seven-year-old elementary school teacher on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, The Woman Upstairs is an urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment that explores the thrill—and the devastating cost—of being a woman in America today.

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All the Lives We Never Lived
by Anuradha Roy

Driven to rebel against the traditions of her Indian culture, Gayatri is insistent upon following her artistic instinct and longing for freedom. She and her son Myshkin are subjected to the warring forces surrounding their country. British rule is reaching a critical turn, while the Nazis have come to power in Germany. But when two strangers enter Gayatri’s town, she tastes a bit of freedom and begins to envision other possible lives.  

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All the Lives We Never Lived
Anuradha Roy

From the Man Booker Prize-nominated author of Sleeping on Jupiter and “one of India’s greatest living authors” (O, The Oprah Magazine), a poignant and sweeping novel set in India during World War II and the present day about a son’s quest to uncover the truth about his mother.

In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in fact German, but in small‑town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British.

So begins the “gracefully wrought” (Kirkus Reviews) story of Myshkin and his mother, Gayatri, who rebels against tradition to follow her artist’s instinct for freedom.

Freedom of a different kind is in the air across India. The fight against British rule is reaching a critical turn. The Nazis have come to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, two strangers arrive in Gayatri’s town, opening up to her the vision of other possible lives.

What took Myshkin’s mother from India and Dutch-held Bali in the 1930s, ripping a knife through his comfortingly familiar universe? Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, Myshkin comes to understand the connections between the anguish at home and a war‑torn universe overtaken by patriotism.

Evocative and moving, “this mesmerizing exploration of the darker consequences of freedom, love, and loyalty is an astonishing display of Roy’s literary prowess” (Publishers Weekly).

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MENTIONED IN:

Creativity Chronicles: 7 Books About Art and Artists

By Holly Claytor | March 26, 2020

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Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson

To say high school started out rough for Melinda would be an understatement. After calling the cops at a party the summer before her freshman year, Melinda is completely outcasted by the rest of her peers. The only solace she finds is in her art class. Through her art, she is finally able to release her emotions and come clean about what actually happened the night of the party. With the help of artistic expression, Melinda refuses to be silent again.  

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Speak
Laurie Halse Anderson

In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

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The Collector
by John Fowles

This classic twisted novel follows a darker artist’s life. Secluded and withdrawn, Frederick expresses his art through collecting butterflies and taking their photographs. But he also has an obsessive side – Frederick is completely infatuated with art student Miranda. As the obsessions continue to increase, Fedrick abducts Miranda and brings her to is remote house, believing that he could eventually force her to love him.  

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The Collector
John Fowles

The Collector is a tale of obsessive love--the story of a lonely clerk who is consumed by his butterfly collection and becomes equally obsessed with a young art student. The novel follows his quest to add her to his "collection" as his ultimate prize. Hailed as the first modern psychological thriller, The Collector is the internationally bestselling novel that catapulted John Fowles into the front rank of contemporary novelists.

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Photo Credit: golubovy/iStock

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