Reading List: Staff Picks by Hannah Fountain

A blonde woman smiling in front of shelves filled with books

Hello! I’m Hannah, a librarian at the Frick Art Reference Library. As a Reference staff member and the Discovery Lead, I assist with reference requests and support the functions of our online catalog. Part of this work involves coordinating activities related to the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC), a group that fosters collaborations between our library, the Museum of Modern Art Library and Archives, and the Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy baking, running, and reading in one of New York City’s many wonderful parks. Below, I’m sharing a few of my favorite items from the Frick Art Reference Library’s collection. Say hello the next time you visit our reading room!

  1. Walter Benjamin’s Archive: Images, Texts, Signs

    Edited by Ursula Marx, Michael Schwartz, Gudrun Schwarz, and Erdmut Wizisla (2007)

    The editors of this publication have woven together a trove of archival materials—scraps of paper, postcards, photographs, micrographic writings, riddles, poems, puzzles—related to the work of philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin, meticulously organized across thirteen chapters. A personal favorite entry is Benjamin’s poetic definition of the aura, a foundational idea from his best-known essay on the value of art in the technological age, written on a cut-out San Pellegrino advertisement.

    Book spread featuring an image of text handwritten on a San Pellegrino advertisement
  1. Elsie de Wolfe’s Paris: Frivolity Before the Storm

    By Charlie Scheips (2014)

    In this book, the author recounts the extravagant Circus Balls hosted by Elsie de Wolfe, an American actress and famous interior designer, in Versailles from 1938–39. (De Wolfe played a significant role in the decoration of Henry Clay Frick’s Fifth Avenue home, which became The Frick Collection after his death.) The era-defining balls—a who’s who of prewar Tout-Paris society—are brought to life in glittering detail with the help of Roger Schall’s previously unpublished photographic coverage of the events. This title is perfect for fans of glitz and glamor.

    Book cover on a shelf featuring a photo of an elegant woman in a gown seated on the floor
  1. Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables

    By Barbara Haskell (2018)

    Not knowing much about the painter Grant Wood, I happened to be visiting New York in 2018 in time to see this retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition—and this accompanying catalogue—portrays Wood’s particular talent for employing pastoral sensibilities (such as in his most famous work, American Gothic) to evoke the complexities of American life. Plus, there’s a corn-cob chandelier!

    Book spread featuring an image of a chandelier made out of fake corncobs
  1. Decorative Arts of the Tunisian École: Fabrications of Modernism, Gender, and Power

    By Jessica Gerschultz (2019)

    As a lover of all things craft, I cannot recommend this title enough! The author provides an exhaustive and colorful account of the Tunisian École, a group of artists, academics, and artisans who sought to blend fine art and traditional Tunisian craft to produce a new and distinctive artistic school. The École honored historical Tunisian art forms and traditions, including those typically regarded as feminine, while reinterrogating colonial and Western influence over regional art and design.

    Book spread featuring a stylized turquoise artwork depicting four women in a landscape
  1. Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, 1918–1939

    By Jodi Hauptman and Adrian Sudhalter (2020)

    This recent publication from the Museum of Modern Art in New York explores the ways in which artists interrogated their creative means, political identities, and ideological pursuits in the early twentieth century, engaging with their new roles as “engineers,” “agitators,” and “constructors.” Through images and essays, this book establishes an encyclopedic survey of European interwar artists’ desire to create challenging and dynamic work for a rapidly changing world while examining the evolving role of the artist in society.

    Book cover featuring a large hand grabbing the title word "Engineer, Agitator, Constructor"
  1. The Art of Clara Peeters

    Edited by Alexander Vergara (2016)

    In this beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue from the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp, Vergara situates the work of pioneering still-life artist Clara Peeters within the larger socioeconomic fabric of seventeenth-century Flemish society and early modern Europe. I find the chapter by Anne Lenders particularly intriguing, as it “lays the table” with historical context for many of the objects, foods, and wares rendered in Peeter’s detailed paintings.

    Book spread featuring a painting of a lavish table spread and an image of a gold tazza
  1. Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris

    By Patricia Sue Canterbury (2004)

    Having previously lived in Knoxville and now New York, I have a particular fondness for this book. Beauford Delaney was born in Knoxville in 1901 and moved to New York in 1929, drawn by the cultural energy of the Harlem Renaissance. An “artist’s artist,” Delaney was once described as such by James Baldwin: “The reality of his seeing caused me to begin to see.” This is a strikingly illustrated overview of Delaney’s oeuvre, from Knoxville to New York to Paris, which captures the artist’s legacy and impact on American art.

    Book spread featuring a painted portrait of James Baldwin and a painting of a city streetscape
  1. Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de’ Medici to Marie-Antoinette

    By Meredith Martin (2011)

    Martin lays out the politics of the pastoral retreat, framing the phenomenon of the laiterie d’agrément, or “pleasure dairy,” as a means of personal and political interrogation among women of spectacular wealth in sixteenth-century France. These pastoral retreats afforded the crown and nobility—especially aristocratic women—the ability to revel in Arcadian sensibilities while engaging in new avenues for courtly refinement and display.

    Book cover on a white shelf featuring a painting of an aristocratic French woman holding porcelain objects

Rapid-Fire Q&A with Hannah

Fiction or nonfiction?


Print or e-books?


Reading or audiobooks?


Iced or hot drinks?


Favorite season?


Favorite library (besides the Frick)?

Hugh Stephens Library in Columbia, Missouri

Favorite depiction of your job in media?

The 1995 movie Party Girl

Most interesting question you’ve received in your job?

At my university library, someone once stopped me to ask, “Where are all the books?” I was glad they asked!

Advice for hopeful future librarians?

There are so many different kinds of libraries and librarianship—enjoy exploring and ask questions!

A blonde woman sitting at a desk leafing through a large volume next to a stack of books

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

Link: Tags:
Facebook Twitter Threads