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Picturing Books


Picturing Books

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Picturing Books


Published on July 30, 2012


A few months ago, Allen Williams emailed me a painting for an upcoming anthology, Queen Victoria’s Spellbook. (You can see the image in the post below.) Allen has been one of my favorite artists for a while now, and if you take a look, I think it’s easy to see why. His illustration is a great image of a reader, which got me thinking… what other paintings feature books?

Click images to enlarge.

Above, twin Italian illustrators Anna and Elena Balbusso showing a book that makes you look behind you.

Winslow Homer. The upper body language is just perfect, so engrossed and relaxed.


Summer reading by Gerard Dubois.


Scott Brundage for Michael Bishop’s tribute to editor David H. Hartwell for David’s 70th birthday.


Another by Gerard DuBois.


Dave Palumbo, as part of a series of tarot cards he is completing with his family Tony Palumbo, Julie Bell, and Boris Vallejo.


I first discovered Francois Schuiten while working on this post. As you’ll see below, I am now a big fan.


I love the simplified shapes in this one from Paul Serusier.


From the surrealist Jacek Yerka.


Jean-Baptiste Monge, a modern day folktale-ist.


Shaun Tan creates the awesomest book group ever.


There’s a J. C. Leyendecker for every occasion and they are all great. I have the pleasure of visiting this one each time I go to the Society of Illustrators.


Two from Jessie Willcox Smith, known for her depictions of childhood.



Gustav Adolph Hennig, sweet and formal.


Bold brush strokes make this one from Maurice Prendergast.


Norman Rockwell, America’s premiere visual storyteller, depicted readers many times.


Carl Spitzweg and a happy bookworm.


Becky Payne showing an artist with one of their most important materials, their library.


Tatsuro Kiuchi with all the options in the world.


Erin McGuire‘s Book Thief.


A millon stories in the naked city, from Francois Schuiten.


Tran Nguyen, reminding us that books are doorways.


An ode to Buck Rogers by still-life artist Teresa N. Fischer. So much to love but, man, I get a kick out of the Christmas bulb moon.


I love the simplified graphic sensibility and use of patterns in this one from Maurice Denis.


Jillian Tamaki and William Butler Yeats.


Chris Silas Neal with a multi-tasking summer reader.


Books as building blocks. Yan Nascimbene had so many great book paintings, it was tough to pick just one.


One of many great New York scenes by Eric Drooker.


Red Nose Studio Poe in 3D.


Mike Stilkey, stacking books and painting cats.


One of Coles Phillips famous fade-away girls.


Stanford Kay, one of his many book paintings. As an Art Director, I can appreciate spine out.


I saw this Vincent Desiderio painting a bunch of years ago. Even standing in front of it, it seemed bigger and more fantastic than is imaginable.


John White Alexander. I love that this apears to be reading in a whirlwind.


George A. Reid‘s evocatively titled “Forbidden Fruit.”


Jean-Léon Gérôme. The grandeur and storytelling in this is fantastic.


Arcimboldo famous for making faces.


Rembrandt‘s mother read books.


Henri Fantin Latour. Two sisters —one engaged, one daydreaming.


M. C. Esher


A still from the fantastic Secret of Kells, a movie about books.


Early science fiction pulp artist Hannes Bok. Because robots and sentient plants gotta read, too.


Chris Buzelli‘s book monster!


Nicholas Roerich


Sam Wolfe Connelley, a spellbook for Magic the Gathering.


Don Maitz shows us just how engrossed in a spellbook a wizard can be.


And another spellbook, this time Donato Giancola‘s rendition of the famous “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene from Disney’s Fantasia.


Yuko Shimizu, one of a number great book drawings for The Unwritten.


Books and cats, nearly inseparable. By Will Barnett.


The great Maurice Sendak did many wonderful posters for the “New York is Book Country” festival.


Shaun Tan‘s foreign exchange student, Eric.


Charles Santoso


Beware of the stacks. The Late Library by Graham Annable.


Chillin’ Neil Gaiman by Yuko Shimizu.


Frank Quitely‘s Destiny from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.


Yet another from Francois Schuiten.


James Gurney, of Dinotopia fame.


Edward Burne-Jones with Merlin and Nimue.


Lawrence Alma-Tadema


Everyone knows John Singer Sargent’s seminal oil paintings, here we see him just as free and adept in watercolor.


Edwin White


A classic merlin from N. C. Wyeth.


Albert Joseph Moore. Value and pattern make this one.


Vincent Van Gogh, a thoughtful moment.


Sara S. Stilwell, The Fairy Godmother.


Todd Lockwood‘s cover for Spellwright


Eleanor Brickdale with Shakespeare’s Prospero.


Book’thulhu! by Dan Dos Santos.


Another from John Alexander White that depicts stitting still and reading as being an active and animated act.


Agnolo Bronzino. Formal and great…it’s fun to visit this one at the Met.


Allen Williams for the upcoming anothology, Queen Victoria’s Spellbook.


Edouard John Mentha, a library and a natural history museum!


Jose Moreno Carbonero


Classic Flemish still-life painting from Jan Davidsz. de Heem.


Gustove Dore‘s Don Quixote, a man lost in books.


A Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Ferdinand Barth.


Norman Rockwell showing a boy’s imagination in play…


…and later in life.


James Tissot shows us a glimpse. 


And finally, a maid taking a break by William McGregor Paxton.

Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books. And had a lot of help from Greg Manchess on this post. 

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