As we launched our Special Museum Edition of The Goldfinch, it’s got us thinking about other book club favorites that have been inspired by art. So, in no particular order, we’ve pulled together a list of must-read arty novels to get stuck into this year.
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (2013)
Inspired by Carel Fabritius’ painting The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt has hooked millions of people around the world with almost 800 pages of brilliance.
Centered around an orphaned New Yorker, Theo, The Goldfinch painting is what captivates and draws him into the underworld of art during life as a young teenager who's struggling to come to terms with the tragic loss of his mother. As an adult, Theo’s life unfolds into a dark, complex and mysterious love story as he continues to struggle with loss, identity and survival.
With a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2014) under it’s belt, the Goldfinch is a book club heavyweight and is due to be released as a movie in 2018.
The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown (2003)
The Da Vinci Code is one of the most read books since the millennium, loved worldwide for being a gripping mystery and thriller with success that has been greatly influenced by the Hollywood blockbuster film.
Most famously associated with the Mona Lisa, the story follows a desperate race through Paris as the main characters – Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu – work to solve riddles and puzzles disguised in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.
If their quest proves successful, astonishing truths would at last be unveiled whilst saving other ancient truths from being lost forever.
The Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier (1999)
Arguably one of Vermeer’s most captivating paintings, it’s no wonder it inspired a love story – a very popular love story at that!
Tracy Chevalier turns the mystery and wonder of the masterpiece into historical fiction about “The Girl” - Griet – when she’s hired as a servant in the Delft household, with Vermeer as her Master. Just 16 at the time, Griet is swept up into an intimate relationship, eventually being hired as a model and sitting for Vermeer in this exquisite painting.
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, by Harriet Scott Chessman (2001)
Inspired by the beautiful works of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, this story is told by her sister, Lydia, who poses for five of her most extraordinary works. Opening a window into the lives of two sisters in the midst of a vibrant 19th century art scene this novel also features tales of real-life figures like Renoir and Degas.
Sadly, we learn that Lydia is ill with Bright’s disease and knows death is approaching, allowing the novel to explore the nature of art and desire, memory and mortality, romantic and familial love.
The Last Nude, by Ellis Avery (2012)
Oozing with love, obsession and tragedy, this sultry historical fiction by Ellis Avery explores the glamour and darkness of life in Paris during the heady extravagant years before the crash, a time when mistresses of wealthy businessmen would find themselves draped in Chanel and jewels.
Inspired by real events in Tamara de Lempicka’s history, we follow the tale of the struggling American, Rafaela Fano, who one evening finds herself in the car of the Art Deco artist. Narrowly avoiding the desperate path to prostitution, Rafaela agrees to model for the artist and before long the two have become lovers with their romance inspiring some of Lempicka’s most iconic Jazz Age paintings.
I, Mona Lisa, by Jeanne Lakogridis (2006)
Told through the voice of Mona Lisa, this historical fiction novel is a popular murder mystery with lots of twists and events that keep readers hooked.
Set in 15th century Florence, a shock assassination of Giuliano de’Medici ripples through the city, a year before Mona Lisa was born. Years later she finds herself at the center of a sinister web of dangerous secrets, love and treachery, as her first love – Giuliano’s nephew and namesake – meets a tragic end to life.
Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Susan Vreeland (2007)
Bestselling author Susan Vreeland penned this historical fiction novel, inspired by one of the world’s favorite Renoir paintings, Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Focusing on the energy that flowed through Paris after the Franco-Prussian War, Renoir and his guests narrate the life in this era of ‘la vie moderne’ – a time when social constraints were loosening and Parisians were bursting with passion and desire to create an extraordinary life for themselves.
Sharing these urges, Renoir also finds himself facing art and love crises and issues with loyalty and diverging styles that were tearing apart the Impressionist group.
Black Water Lilies, by Michel Bussi (2016)
The most recently published book in our list, Black Water Lilies, is inspired by Claude Monet’s Water Lily series. A thrilling murder mystery, the story delves into a darker side of Giverny, France – the home of Monet and the gardens where he painted his water lilies.
Spanning across 13 days, beginning with one murder and ending with another, a body is found in the stream of the gardens and in the pocket of the corpse's jacket is a postcard of Monet’s Water Lilies and a mysterious message on the other side. Tangled in this mystery are three lead female characters, but what do they know about the murder and could the discovery of a Black Water Lilies painting be about to happen?
The Painted Kiss, by Elizabeth Hickey (2005)
This novel takes readers back to 1886 Vienna, a time of elegant cafes, grand opera houses and bustling artistic circles. The Painted Kiss is a romantic and provocative tale about Emilie Floge and Gustav Klimt. At just 12 years old Emilie first meets Klimt when her father employs the artist for drawing lessons. After being introduced to a subculture of dissolute artists and their wanton models, Emilie is terrified yet inspired by this captivating world.
As she blossoms into a young woman, Emilie becomes known as one of Europe’s most exclusive couturiers and, of course, Klimt’s most beloved model and mistress and the face of his most adored piece, The Kiss.
I Am Madame X, by Gioia Diliberto (2003)
One of the most controversial paintings of it’s time, John Singer Sargent’s Madame X was unveiled at the Paris Salon in 1884 and smashed his dreams of a career in Paris because the provocative dress and pose of Virginie Gautreau was too risque, shocking the public and critics.
In this richly imaginative novel, Diliberto follows the story of this American beauty, Virginie Gautreau, recreating her tempestuous and promiscuous personality. Going from the lush plantations of New Orleans to the midst of grand ballrooms, dressmakers’ salons and artists’ ateliers Virginie thrived on this new, post-war wealthy lifestyle, so much so that her showy self-display often put her at the center of vicious Paris gossip.
These are just a few of the highlights of novels that are inspired by art. We are very excited that our Elegraph print, The Goldfinch, has an inspiring novel based after it. The Goldfinch really is a special little bird.