The best books on Understanding the Nude, recommended by Annebella Pollen

Nudity is not the same as the nude. Nor is nudity the same as nudism, but they tend to overlap quite a lot in people’s minds. Annebella Pollen, an authority on the many varied forms of British nudism in the twentieth century shares key influences on her own research to help us unpack (or undress?) the idea of nudity in western culture, showing the many ways in which nakedness can be a form of dress.

The best books on The Arts and Crafts Movement, recommended by Julia Griffin

Originating in 19th-century Britain, the Arts and Crafts movement was an international phenomenon extending across many media to Europe, America and Japan. Julia Griffin, who has examined its impact in Poland, tells us how it advanced notions of national identity and provided roots to modernism by establishing a sensitivity to materials, designs, and forms, a sensibility that is still with us today.

The best books on Bohemian Living, recommended by Darren Coffield

The bohemian world of London and Paris in the 20th century was a fabled land, where people could go to get lost, reinvent themselves and live life as they wanted. Poverty, alcoholism and misery were often the frequent travelling companions on this journey but, Darren Coffield argues, these marginalised areas of society allowed for a freedom that is almost unimaginable in our own world. He picks the best books on bohemian living.

The Best Books by Artists, recommended by Michaela Unterdörfer

Why should we read what visual artists have written? Michaela Unterdörfer, head of publishing for the art gallery Hauser & Wirth, argues that the visual and artistic language of artists makes archival material more immediate and compelling. Artists’ testimonies refer not only to physical archives but above all to the mental archives of artists, their cultural and historic inheritance, which books like these bring to life.

The best books on Andy Warhol, recommended by Blake Gopnik

Andy Warhol’s ubiquitous soup cans – and his willingness to play the naïf – eclipse the leading Pop Art figure’s depth, as Blake Gopnik reveals in his magisterial new biography. Here, Gopnik discusses five key books that offer crucial insight into Warhol the man.

The best books on Drawing and Painting, recommended by Juliette Aristides

Geniuses may only be born once a century or so, but great art gets made all the time. Some of it follows atelier methods inspired by an apprenticeship model that has been handed down through the centuries. Juliette Aristides, an artist at the forefront of the atelier revival movement, discusses five books that are ‘core curriculum’ for anyone who wants to learn how to paint and draw, and thereby explore the virtues of sustained attention and close observation that come with making representational art.

The best books on Vermeer and Studio Method, recommended by Jane Jelley

Painting is not what it used to be. With materials and photography close to hand, it’s easy to forget the sheer labour involved in producing an Old Master canvas. What does studio method – the making of masterpieces – tell us about artistic genius, then and now? Painter Jane Jelley considers the question using Johannes Vermeer as her starting point.

The best books on Northern Renaissance, recommended by Christopher S. Wood

The Renaissance had quite distinct manifestations in Northern Europe and Italy: if the Southern Renaissance was all about abundance and positivity, the dominant theme of the Northern Renaissance was negativity, says New York University Professor Christopher S. Wood. He recommends what to read to learn more about the Northern Renaissance, from Bosch’s fantasy bestiary of the demonic and the grotesque, to Bruegel’s comic and badly proportioned peasants.

The best books on The Lives of Artists, recommended by Maria Loh

We live in an age obsessed with self-image. Technology has made the ‘selfie’ a ubiquitous form of social currency. Renaissance means may have been very different, but celebrity artists in Medici Florence dealt with many of the issues relating to identity and authorship that we grapple with today. Maria Loh, author of Still Lives: Death, Desire, and the Portrait of the Old Master, talks to Five Books about the curated self.

The best books on Rembrandt, recommended by Onno Blom

Though he left more self-portraits to posterity than practically any Old Master, there remains an air of mystery around Rembrandt the man—even on the 350th anniversary of his death. Piecing together the very few personal letters and documents left behind, Onno Blom has now reconstructed Rembrandt’s formative years in Young Rembrandt. Here he guides us through five of the most authoritative—and imaginative—accounts of the artist.

The best books on John Ruskin, recommended by Michael Glover

As a believer in the humanising nature of proper work, the virtues of sustained attention and the value of aesthetics as the keystone to ideals for a truly prosperous society, John Ruskin’s abiding concerns are still very much with us today. On the bicentenary of this eminent Victorian’s birth, Michael Glover, author of the idiosyncratic Ruskin Dictionary, explains why we should still be reading Ruskin closely in the twenty first century.

The Best Art History Books for Teenagers, recommended by John Harrison

Which are the best books to get a teenager excited about art history? We turned to veteran art history teacher John Harrison, formerly head of the art history department at Eton College, for his top five picks of the most illuminating and accessible books for getting a broad overview of the history of art.

The best books on The Renaissance, recommended by Jerry Brotton

A century-and-a-half ago the Swiss art historian, Jacob Burckhardt, popularized the idea of a ‘Renaissance’ in 14th century Italy. For most people, the term still conjures up works of art by the likes of Michelangelo or Leonardo. But there is much, much more to it than that. Professor of Renaissance studies, Jerry Brotton, picks the best books to read for a more complete understanding of the Renaissance.

Andrew Graham-Dixon on His Favourite Art Books

Art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon takes us through his favourite art books, one of which is the best thing he has ever read about art. He contends that Monet is a follower of Turner, reflects on how the purpose of history of art has changed, and introduces us to the diaries of an “astonishingly bad” painter which reveal him to be one of the nineteenth century’s greatest prose writers.

The best books on The Dutch Masters, recommended by Adam Eaker

The past may be a foreign country, but the world portrayed in the art of the Dutch Masters is not so very far from our own, says Adam Eaker of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. For a society that struggles with materialism and consumption, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from the 17th century Golden Age.

The best books on Architectural History, recommended by Dan Cruickshank

Art historian and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank explains the beauty of Palladian proportions, takes us on a tour of some key English country houses and describes the poetry of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles. He recommends the best books on ‘architectural history’