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I’ve always liked the idea of decorating a library or reading corner with art that features books. I may not have a fairytale library, but can feel like I do when I add a painting of a dream library to the wall next to my bookshelf.
Sometimes I just like to remember bookshelves from lives past. In April of 2020, just as everyone was starting to realize that lockdown might last a bit more than a few weeks, I found myself sitting on a refund from a conference I hoped to attend. At the same time, one of my favorite artists, Jeremy Miranda, decided to occupy his extra free time with commissions. I jumped at the chance and purchased one, sending him a photo of some stairs from my old apartment. These stairs predated the house being divided into apartments, and so they went to a door that had been sealed off. So, the stairs became bookshelves, and it became one of my cat’s favorite place to sit. I don’t live in that apartment anymore, but I have a photo of those stairs that I really love, so I sent it off to the artist. A little while later, I got my commission back. I love it.
Miranda has several prints of slightly surreal library art in his Etsy shop, so I thought it would be fun to round up some other bookish art — originals and prints — that you might use to adorn your library.
I am not any kind of expert, and as I got deeper into trying to find interesting art for this post, I started to get more and more intimidated. Maybe I don’t have very good taste! Maybe I can’t pick out good art! But I decided to decide that that is silly. I am just finding some art that I like that I think you might like, too.
I set a few loose rules for myself. I wanted to include art in a way that would somehow benefit the artist, so buy links are all directly from the artist’s website, Etsy shop, or an authorized listing. The world of bookish art is overwhelmingly paintings of tall, skinny, white, brunette women reading books. Often she has a messy bun. This seems like some oddly idealized vision of a reader, and I wanted to dig a little deeper than that for this list.
I also wanted to include a range of prices. Some of these are prints you can order for as little as $14, but some are originals that sell for a few hundred dollars. Spending a couple hundred dollars on art is aspirational for many, but still in a realistic price range for a lot of people. I’m going to assume that if you’re looking to drop more than that on a piece of art, you’d be shopping someplace other than this, a book blog. But, I did want to include some originals, because prints are wonderful, but there’s something tremendously special about original art.
I say “prints,” but that includes numbered editions, hand-printed and colored linocuts, and also less expensive fine-art prints.
I’ve always loved Jeremy Miranda’s work. All the sharp lines against organic shapes. I love that this one, “Water Front,” has a bit of neon in it. Can you see the miniature painting of the sea above the shelves? $55 for a print. Take a peek at his shop for a few more fantasy-library-by-the-sea paintings.
I discovered Jordan Buscher while researching this post, and I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole. She paints collections of objects as a sort of portrait of her subjects without showing their faces, and many of her paintings are stacks of paints. This one is called “Stoner,” which I expect is more about the John Edward Williams novel than, well, other meanings of the word. (The cover of the anniversary edition of Stoner is similar to one of her recent drawings and do you see what I mean by rabbit hole???) Please buy out these prints so I don’t. 8×10 print for $28, more if you go with a mat or frame. Check out more of her work for more book-related art that I am obsessed with.
I loved this poster before I realized it’s a drawing of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books from Shadow of the Wind, a book that I have not read but which is literally on my nightstand, so I think it’s lovely whether or not you’re a particular fan of that book. The detail! The golden light coming in, filtering through the dust! $35 for a 22×28 poster. Check out Seth Hahne’s shop for more book-related posters.
This is a tiny print of one of Blake Gore’s tiny drawings. It’s of the book portal at The Last Bookstore, a remarkable bookstore in Los Angeles. I love the idea of either putting this in a wee frame above my desk, or putting it in an oversized frame that invites people to come look at it closely. Check out his shop for more bookish art. $25 for a 4×4 print.
This is a collage of a library, not a stack of books, and I’ve had so much fun zooming in to see all the words the artist, Deco, incorporated into the stairs and pillars of this Carnegie Library. $50 for an 8×10 print, other sizes available.
This watercolor print from SeeWhatIDesign is one I’d like to live inside of. It’s such a calm, soothing space, and I love the little details like the mini paintings flanking the fireplace. $15 for an 5×7 print.
This is a print, but it’s a hand-pulled, limited edition of 12, signed and numbered print from Novis Natura Studio. He wanted to convey the feeling of being totally pulled into a story in “Word-ly Consumption.” $35 for an 11×16 handmade print.
This charming linocut is tiny: only 1 inch by 2 5/8 inches, and is hand-printed and colored. Imagine putting it in an usual place, like the tiny paintings flanking the fireplace in the watercolor a few listings above! Check Ken Swanson’s shop for more bookish art.
This is perfect if you’re a fan of Alexandre Dumas, but even if you’re not, the warm colors are so cozy. From what I can tell from her shop, this is Dyan Dean’s second most popular book-related work, so be sure to check out her shop for more. $14 for an 8×10 print.
These original watercolors, oil paintings, and more, are one-of-a-kind works of art that you can keep forever.
This is an oil painting of the artist’s travels in (she thinks!) Germany. Rebecca M. Beal starts with a base coat of gold on her board, paints over it in oil, and the scrapes the paint away to reveal the gold. $220 (though on sale at the time of writing) for a 15.5×11 oil painting.
I fell in love with the brushwork and the colors on this one, and decided to include it even after I learned that the original sold, but the artist, Viktoriia Dzikovskia is selling her own copies of the work. She says “This painting has been sold, your painting will be created very similar in the same style, colors, you will get the same quality and beauty of the painting as what you see in the pictures.” I thought that it was still worth including. $170 for an 8×10 oil painting, discounted at the time of writing.
I loved this sweet watercolor. I don’t know if Owl Books is a real bookstore, but I’d sure like to visit! $97 for a 14×10 watercolor by Ethel Villarreal.
The artist, Carole Nataf, calls this “Bouvard and Pecuchet,” and it’s a painting of Gustave Flaubert’s unfinished novel of the same name. The painting depicts items that she believes the main characters would have picked up on their travels: a compass, a religious icon, a straw hat. $300 for a 12×16 oil painting.
This painting of the Paris bookstalls from the Etsy shop Cinnabar and Sienna feels just exactly like a bit 1950s Hollywood movie musical. I almost expect Audrey Hepburn to come strolling by. $406 for a 10×12 oil painting.
And we’ll end on one more tiny piece of art. This is “In the Beginning” from Italian artist Pierpaolo Rovero, a comics artist and illustrator who has moved into fine art. This tiny original is 12cm by 12cm and sells for $308.
I hope you found a new artist to love, or at least that I’ve sent you off on a rabbit trail to discover something new.
Looking for more bookish art? Check out this Beautiful Book Wall Art To Add Color To Your Spaces. Want to pretend like you’re walking around a museum? Take a museum-themed quiz and get a non-fiction book recommendation. Want to create some art with the kids in your life? Here are some of the best art books for kids. You’ve seen bookish art, now check out these art books.