Fine art and books

Hope everyone saw the great piece by Geoff Dyer in the Times Book Review this past Sunday by on the use of Victorian paintings for the jackets of the Penguin Classics back in the 1970s. Yes, it’s quite a stroll down memory lane, but I was really struck by Dyer’s point that the paintings featured on the jackets not only did their job of getting him to read the books, but that they afforded Dyer an introduction to fine art and art history as well. And I love the idea of him joyfully stumbling upon his favorite book jacket images in art galleries and museums!

Coincidentally, I’d been kicking around a blog post on the intersection of books and fine art for a while now, though at a slightly younger level. Through the generosity of my children’s book editorial friends (and my raiding the shelves at Penguin before I left), we’ve got a number of picture books at home that feature fine art—James Warhola’s Uncle Andy’s, Babar’s Museum of Art, and the first Olivia, to name a few. And one of the proudest (and cutest) moments of fatherhood for me so far was when we took our son to MOMA and he recognized not only Warhol’s Marilyn from Uncle Andy’s, but the Jackson Pollock painting that Olivia could do “in about five minutes”—luckily, our boy didn’t pull an Olivia and try it at home!

More seriously, I’m hopeful these book/art connections will instill a lifelong interest in fine art as much as reading. And like Dyer, I’m counting on the Penguin Classics to further this interest for my son as he gets older. Moreover, in this age of eBooks, where book covers have the potential to go the way of record jackets in the CD age, I think it’s a strong argument for publishers to continue producing intelligent and intellectual book packaging.

Okay, let’s have some fun—if you were picking a fine art masterpiece for your book jacket, what would it be?

4 Responses to Fine art and books

  1. Andrea says:

    My boyfriend is an artist and he has painted a few scenes from my current fantasy novel project. So my choice would naturally be one of his paintings (though he wouldn´t call them masterpieces) and a special edition hardcover illustrated by him would be even better 😉 (yes, I keep on dreaming!)

  2. Simone says:

    I think Max Ernst’s “Une semaine de bonté” would be pretty interesting for my paranormal romance novel:


    And maybe something by Zdzislaw Beksinski for my latest, urban fantasy?


  3. Mardi says:

    Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” I look at this work and don’t see a young woman with polio but rather someone at home in her own longing. When I saw this painting at the Museum of Modern Art, even though I’d see representations of it so often, it just stunned me.

  4. Jo Lawler says:

    I would have to pick “Adirondacks” by Asher Brown Durand. I am absolutely in love with the landscape artists of the Hudson River School.

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