Libertà, l’ho vista by Laura Vincelli

6 Books Inspired by Famous Paintings

Karina Bocchicchio January 31 2024


Since a picture is worth a thousand words, some authors take inspiration from artworks to craft intricate stories. Art enthusiasts will love these five novels based on famous paintings.

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman

This novel fictionalizes the lives of sisters Lydia and Mary Cassatt. Depicting their lives in 1880s Paris, author Harriet Chessman draws inspiration from five of Mary's paintings of her sister. Each chapter highlights one of the realistic art pieces as Lydia ruminates her battle with Bright's Disease and looming death. While commenting on art's ability to capture and preserve memories, the novel shows the strength of sisterly love.

I, Mona Lisa

Art lovers who enjoy reading will be delighted to hear this is the title of two distinct novels. Jeanne Kalogris tells the story of the woman who sat for Leonardo Da Vinci, weaving together fact and fiction to tell a story of romance, treasury, and secrets. In contrast, Natasha Solomons writes about the painting itself. The portrait narrates its journey through the centuries as it travels from Florence to Versailles to The Louvre, telling the readers her previous owners' secrets. Whichever novel you pick up, both books tell an incredible story honouring Da Vinci's masterpiece.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

As an art historian, Tracy Chevalier skillfully mixes fact with imagination to tell the story of Griet, the 16-year-old girl who modelled for Johannes Vermeer. This novel, fraught with drama and domestic intrigue, will leave any art enthusiast wanting more. If you enjoy Chevalier's writing style, the author wrote another artistic novel called The Lady and the Unicorn, which recounts the story of several medieval tapestries.

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick

In this debut novel, Sheramy Bundrick tells a fictionalized account of the relationship between a sex worker named Rachel and the young Vincent Van Gogh. Art lovers will read a story of romance and intensity as the couple navigates a myriad of obstacles, from financial hardships to Van Gogh's mental illness.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Named after the Carel Fabritius painting of the same name, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of 13-year-old Theo Decker. After the death of his mother, Theo must learn to navigate the world as he comes into possession of the titular artwork. As he grows up, the realistic art piece reminds him of his mother as he faces life's obstacles.

Luncheon at the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

Susan Vreeland brings to life Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s work by telling the stories of those depicted in his painting. Narrated by Renoir and the seven models, this collection of interconnected short stories depicts the creation of the titular artwork. Art enthusiasts will adore this book packed with gusto hedonism and other qualities of la vie modern in Paris.

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