There’s plenty of beautiful art books to liven up your living space. These range from colorful biographies focused on specific artists to more general books on museums and art movements.
And if you’re looking for a beautiful art coffee table book then look no further!
This post should have plenty to choose from with a huge variety for all artists.
Just note: for this gallery I’m focusing on traditional art books only. So if you’re looking for more entertainment-based art books then have a look at our list of movie artbooks and game artbooks instead.
Art That Changed The World
First is this gorgeous look at dozens of artistic styles over the centuries.
Art That Changed The World spans 400 pages with some incredible spreads of paintings. These include the artist’s name, influences, time period, and even critiques of different paintings.
I especially like the parts with different timelines of events as they happened in the art world.
It gives you a sense of exactly how the art scene developed, especially over the course of the 20th century.
I’d recommend this for all artists and art historians. Or even folks who just appreciate art and want a reminder of the long journey we’ve been through as a species.
Art: A Visual History
Here’s one more history-oriented book that I think does the job well.
With Art: A Visual History by Robert Cumming you’ll find 415 pages of brilliant prints along with detailed descriptions of each artistic movement.
This book covers all forms of art including sculpture and many different mediums beyond oil paints(including mixed media).
It features 600+ different artists including details on the many classical schools and their teaching styles.
Truly a gorgeous history book for the ages. It just so happens to include a lot of pretty pictures too!
Art: Over 2,500 Works From Cave to Contemporary
As the title suggests with this art book you’ll find over 2,500+ different works scattered throughout these pages.
Talk about a compendium!
Some of the early chapters share insights on different artists like their use of color, perspective, lighting, and their unique painting techniques.
But as you go forward you’ll find more detailed chapters with examples of very specific artwork over the years.
Both western and non-western artists are included with a total of 700 years of artwork.
One thing I really like is the detailed themes covered throughout each piece. These writeups help you see how different artists covered similar themes in their work, even though each one approached the subject with a totally unique point of view.
The Art Book
With such a simple title you may not know what to expect here.
But let me assure you The Art Book is no simple book. It brings you through history’s finest artists from Da Vinci to Monet and Picasso. Plus there’s various chapters on early artwork presumably from the dawn of civilization(as we know it).
There’s a wide variety of pieces featured here going beyond just paintings. Some areas covered include Japanese modern art and Assyrian sculptures and so much more.
For a supersized book that touches upon a little bit of everything, I have to say this one does an excellent job.
Plus the writing style keeps you entertained through a subject that many people find boring.
Dalí: The Paintings
Spanish artist Salvador Dali is one of the more well-known names in the art world.
He was part of the surrealist movement and his works are some of the most widely recognized in our time.
With Dalí: The Paintings you’ll get a deeper look into his life and his magnificent artwork.
If you’re into weird and obscure styles of art then Dali is for you. Even if you’ve never really seen much of his work before, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this book if you like that type of artwork.
This can also make a fun gift for any artist in your life who’s a true blue surrealist lover.
The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss
It may seem weird to lump a cartoonist into this list. But Theodor Geisel(AKA Dr. Seuss) was a magnificent artist for his time.
Yet most of his artwork is overshadowed by his beloved children’s books, many of which we all still remember to this day.
And that’s what makes The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss such a great art book.
This will entertain your kids or younger family members if you ever have get togethers at home. But it’s also a fun book to flip through if you’re just looking for cool art ideas.
Many of the pieces featured here are quite outlandish and somewhat darker than the typical Seuss illustrations.
You’ll still find yourself mesmerized by the quality and unique illustrations packed into this collection.
Artists: Their Lives & Works
Here’s one of the newest books in this entire list and it’s one of the more interesting ones for history lovers.
Artists: Their Lives & Works totals just over 350 pages long with sections for all of history’s most profound artists. These include painters and sculptors with some names dating back 500+ years or more!
What’s most interesting is the mix of descriptive writing along with all these paintings.
You get to read a little about each artist and the context in which they lived.
These small descriptions also include details about the artistic movements of their time and how these movements affected their work. Truly an incredible showcase of artistic ingenuity through the decades.
The Art of Walt Disney
We all know the name Disney so it’s no surprise to see him mentioned in art circles.
While it’s true that Disney focused primarily on cartoons & animation, his legacy in the art world cannot be overlooked.
One of my personal favorite coffee table books is The Art of Walt Disney.
To this day it’s still one of the most popular illustrated books on the history of a western artist. Primarily because Walt lived during a time when photographs, writings, and many keepsakes were salvageable for this kind of historic archive.
Granted you can learn a lot more about Walt through various documentaries on the animation industry.
But this book is a better option for flicking through the life & times of Walt Disney punctuated with hundreds of his illustrations.
Highly recommend this book for all animation fans, illustration lovers, and general artists who appreciate the incredible work of Walt Disney.
Van Gogh: Complete Works
One more specialist book is Van Gogh: Complete Works first published back in late 2012.
This reads as one-part biography with details on Van Gogh’s life and the times he grew up. This also includes insights towards his artwork and how his life experiences affected the work he created.
Van Gogh was around during the mid-to-late 1800s so he saw a lot of societal change. You’ll get to relive this along with hundreds of his works printed in full color with glossy pages.
Totaling a massive 700+ pages this book is sure to keep you busy for hours.
It’s also one of the heavier coffee table books you can find so it works great as a centerpiece.
The Age of French Impressionism
One of the biggest parts of 19th century French art is the impressionist era.
The Art Institute of Chicago houses many of these paintings and you’ll find them reprinted in The Age of French Impressionism.
The pieces are organized based on year and which period they were created in. Each painting includes a little blurb about the artist with some info behind their creation process.
It’s a fun book to delve into French impressionism and learn more about that period in art history.
Plus you get a fun bonus of extra materials with archival photos of classic exhibitions and setups from the formation of the Art Institute of Chicago’s massive collection.
A brilliant look into impressionism that’ll leave you wanting even more.
Florence: The Paintings & Frescoes
Pushing a little further east we land in Italy with Florence: The Paintings & Frescoes dating through 1250-1743.
In this massive 700-page tome to Italian museums you’ll find artwork from dozens of incredible artists who all give their name to part of Italy’s rich culture.
These works are printed in full color and taken from over 28 different museums all around Florence.
The city itself is packed with art schools, ateliers, and museums filled to the brim with classical works, making it the perfect city to focus on for an art book.
Highly recommend this for anyone who wants a deeper look at Italian artists and the Florence art scene in general.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings
Everyone should know about the Met and the incredible artwork housed there.
But if you aren’t able to make the journey then try picking up a copy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings.
This 550 page guide to the Met’s beautiful gallery is sure to leave an impression on your coffee table.
And with a detailed list of more than 500 paintings you’ve got a lot to look at.
The Met’s collection is huge so this can’t possibly include everything. But it does offer a really solid guide to the Met’s collection with some beautiful prints to gloss over.
Dutch artists in the 17th century are widespread and have a lot of material to wade through. In fact, one search in Google and you’ll find quite a few art books on this period.
But my favorite and the one I most recommend is Class Distinctions first published in late 2015.
The book isn’t massive but it does have some incredible works over the total 340+ pages.
There’s a ton of detailed writeups talking about the time period and how artists worked back then, along with prints of the artwork itself.
If you’ve never looked much into this period you may not know what to expect.
But as a hardcover coffee table art book this is sure to captivate anyone with a love for visual arts.
The Louvre: All The Paintings
Talking about famous museums we simply cannot skip over The Louvre in Paris.
Now hold onto your socks because this book may knock ‘em off.
It features every single piece of work housed in the museum at the date of publication in late 2011.
That means prints of 3,000+ paintings, all the ones on permanent display in the museum, can be found in this massive book. And yes, it’s pretty big(almost 800 pages).
Seriously this is the museum art book to end all others. It’s the one book you should get if you’ve never delved into classical/traditional art before, but really want to.
And of course it’s a brilliant keepsake for anyone who’s been to the Louvre and wants a personal collection to keep at home.
The Art Museum
The Art Museum is a truly unique book with a clear structure organized by art specialists.
I’d argue this is perfect for every art lover’s coffee table or art studio.
It’s divided into galleries with a carefully curated order to encourage readers to move through different art styles, periods, and artists.
You’ll find artwork from ancient Greece to modern Oceania all the way through the Renaissance and so much more. It’s practically a complete history lesson on the aesthetics of art in our world.
This art book will help you grasp the significance of our long-standing culture and how far we’ve come as a species.
Definitely a top recommendation from this list if you want a more generalized art book on a wide variety of styles & time periods.
Painting and Sculpture at The MoMA
Some people are into modern art, others aren’t. No right or wrong answer here—just different tastes.
For those who love this kind of work MoMA is the place to be for creativity and inspiration.
But with this coffee table book you don’t need to take a trip to NYC just to breathe it all in.
Painting and Sculpture at The MoMA is a pretty short book compared to others in this list. It’s only 256 pages but the artwork inside is phenomenal.
It features hundreds of pieces from the museum’s massive library acquired over the past 90+ years. Definitely a brilliant look into the changing tides of modern art and it even offers a peek into recent years sharing thoughts on what we may expect in decades to come.
Much like modern art in the above title, not every artist will appreciate graffiti.
But if you are a fan of street art then take a look at Graffiti World, the newest up-to-date edition of this book being published in 2009.
This places street art front & center against a world of more traditional oil paintings and sculptures. In this 400+ page gallery of graffiti you’ll find dozens of artists featuring their incredible work from across the globe.
Banksy is naturally one of the many artists featured but there’s also an in-depth look into street art culture dating back to the 1960s.
Whether you’re looking for inspiration for digital art, graphic design, or something else completely different, street art is a unique yet practical place to find it.
Vatican: All The Paintings
In the heart of Italy lies Vatican City, home to The Vatican and some of the world’s most valuable paintings.
In this beautiful 550+ page compendium you’ll find sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and so much more all from the palatial home of Christianity. Vatican: All The Paintings is well worth picking up whether you’re religious or secular.
Mostly because these prints are absolutely beautiful and very difficult to find elsewhere.
Artists like Michelangelo and Raphael are some of the biggest names featured alongside dozens of others.
The book is organized into sections for each museum in the area along with further detail on the individual rooms and the artwork.
Truly the largest collection of Vatican artwork all in one binding.
Paintings At The Art Institute of Chicago
There is no art book as detailed or as complete to compare with Paintings At The Art Institute of Chicago.
It’s a newer publication first released in late 2017. This focuses on one of the most beloved and treasured art collections in the entire world situated in Chicago, Illinois.
Each section includes small blurbs written by museum curators, art historians, and many college-level educators who know a thing or two about the time periods behind these paintings.
If you can’t make the trip out to Chicago but still want to experience this museum I highly recommend a copy of this book. It also works incredibly well as a gift for that special artist in your life.
Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer
Last but not least is this beautiful art book with a title we could never forget: Michelangelo.
Many would say the word “genius” gets thrown around too much these days. I’d be inclined to agree.
Yet Michelangelo is one of the few people in history that this word should apply. His work is phenomenal and we’ve yet to find many other artists who can create work at his level.
And it’s easy to understand why after skimming through this collection of 200+ drawings, paintings, and sculptures all created by Michelangelo himself.
The prints are very high quality and it’s quite easy to flip through this book getting lost along the way.
Plus the chapters are split into thematic talking points so the book itself is also very well organized.
But have a look through this list again to see which book(s) might fit best with your interests.
They all make wonderful coffee table pieces but you can also stick these in your bookshelf or keep them in your studio for some quick inspiration.