Reading List: Portraiture

Stack of books with a book on top called "Lover's Eyes" featuring a jeweled miniature portrait of an eye

The genre of portraiture can be traced back to antiquity. It offers—in the many permutations it takes—a unique glimpse into the lives and worlds of its sitters. To celebrate the Frick’s acclaimed current exhibition Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick, the Frick Art Reference Library presents a recommended reading list of titles from our collections that explore how artists have crafted portraits and self-portraits throughout history.

The following books can be viewed in the reading room at our temporary home, Frick Madison. We are open by appointment, free of charge. For those unable to visit, learn more about our complimentary document delivery service, which provides scans from items in our collections.

  1. Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick

    By Aimee Ng and Antwaun Sargent (2023)

    In our new exhibition catalogue—also available at the Museum Shop—explore the early portraits of the pioneering American artist Barkley L. Hendricks, who took inspiration from historic European art and counted the Frick as one of his favorite museums. The publication is also a testament to Hendricks’s legacy within the art world, featuring contributions by artists and cultural figures who were inspired by his groundbreaking work.

    Book cover featuring a full-length portrait of a man in sunglasses, a long white jacket, and white pants against a white background
  1. Portraits: A History

    By Andreas Beyer (2003)

    Tap into the history of the portrait. This expansive book covers portraiture from antiquity to the twentieth century and contains many reproductions and detailed images. Several artists found in The Frick Collection are featured, including Hans Memling, Albrecht Dürer, Titian, and Rembrandt.

    Book spread featuring two modernist portraits of woman seated at tables and smoking
  1. Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait

    By Carola Hicks (2011)

    Uncover the mysteries of the famed Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck, a painting from the Northern Renaissance that has garnered much debate in the art history community. The author includes chapters focused on specific elements of the painting, Van Eyck’s biography, and fifteenth-century Bruges and also touches on how contemporary artists and designers have been inspired by the enigmatic portrait.

    Book cover featuring a Flemish painting of an engaged man and woman holding hands in a bedroom
  1. Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today

    By Denise Murrell (2018)

    Study the ways in which the Black female figure has shaped modern art history. This catalogue was published in conjunction with a 2018–19 exhibition of the same name at The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University. This dissertation-turned-exhibition is the culmination of curator Denise Murrell’s research, investigating Black female models’ interactions with and influences on modern artists.

    Book cover featuring a detail from a painting of a Black female figure
  1. Lover’s Eyes: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection

    Edited by Elle Shushan (2021)

    Peer into this publication full of miniature eye paintings. Dr. David Skier, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Nan Skier, first became enamored with this unique form of portraiture at an antiques show in Boston in the 1980s. After this encounter, the couple acquired more than 130 eye miniatures—also known as “lover’s eyes”—which are richly illustrated in this volume.

    Book spread featuring images of brooches and cameos framing miniature eye portraits
  1. Alice Neel: People Come First

    By Kelly Baum and Randall Griffey (2021)

    Discover the work of the artist Alice Neel, who is revered for her diverse portraits and images of New York City during the twentieth century. This Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalogue offers multiple perspectives on Neel’s ethos, practice, and oeuvre, including her paintings, pastels, watercolors, and drawings.

    Book cover featuring a multicolored modernist portrait of a woman in a white blouse
  1. Arcimboldo: Visual Jokes, Natural History, and Still-Life Painting

    By Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann (2009)

    Learn about the life of the sixteenth-century artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who is known for fusing still-life painting with portraiture with composite faces made of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Author and art historian Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann has spent decades of his career studying Arcimboldo, and this text provides a rich and nuanced biography of this one-of-a-kind artist.

    Book cover featuring a portrait of a man made up of fruits and a basket
  1. Icons and Identities

    Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley (2021)

    Dive into the National Portrait Gallery of London’s extensive collection in this exhibition catalogue featuring images of both familiar and lesser-known faces through the ages. The featured portraits in this book are organized thematically, with subjects ranging from fame and power to identity and self-portraiture.

    Book spread featuring a portrait of Anna Wintour with her signature bob haircut against a yellow background

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

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