The best books on Goya and the art of biography, recommended by Janis Tomlinson

The art of Francisco de Goya reflects the social and political chaos of Spain in his day, leaving later generations to read into his prolific work—by turns formal and bizarre, official and fantastic—many often contradictory interpretations. Art historian Janis Tomlinson recommends books that disentangle Goya from the retroactive projections of later admirers and situates him in his own time. We also consider what makes for a compelling biography.

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 Leonardo da Vinci, recommended by Martin Kemp

Every generation has its own Leonardo, and for many he remains a man of mystery. Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in Art History at Oxford and the author of the recently published Mona Lisa: The People and the Painting, helps us identify the non-mythical Leonardo. What might Leonardo be doing were he alive today, in our own digital age?

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 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.