The holidays are a time of indulgence, and that extends to the realm of art books, where a single volume can command a tasting-menu price tag. Here, we present this season’s visual treats, which offer something for everyone, from the fashion-obsessed magazine junkie to the screaming-at-the-TV sports fan.
"I can always find something that is his own, is not a repetition, and is in line with traditions,” wrote Philadelphia physician, art collector, and educator Albert C. Barnes about Henri Matisse in a 1946 letter to art collector and critic Leo Stein, reflecting on his monumental collection of 59 of the artist’s works. Matisse in the Barnes Foundation, a three-volume slipcased compendium edited by Yve-Alain Bois (Thames & Hudson, $275), showcases Barnes’s holdings, which include the masterpieces Le Bonheur de Vivre and The Dance. Essays on what Barnes thought of Matisse, how and why Barnes collected his work, and the evolution of The Dance, as well as the latest findings on Matisse’s techniques, accompany the 656 illustrations.
The demise of Trans World Airlines in 2001 raised concerns about the future of Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, but the recent confirmation that the 1962 building will be converted into a hotel complex has assuaged some of those fears. Designing TWA: Eero Saarinen’s Airport Terminal in New York by Kornel Ringli (Park Books, dist. by Univ. of Chicago, $39) honors the architectural achievement of this emblem of midcentury modern design, from Saarinen’s initial sketches through the terminal’s closing in 2001. Photographs and archival documents, which depict everything from the design of the flight hostesses’ uniforms to diagrams of passenger and baggage movement, pay homage to the golden era of air travel.
Even before selfies and Instagram, before professional photographers and supermodels, there was still a thriving industry of sartorial image making. The Fine Art of Fashion Illustration by Julian Robinson, with Gracie Calvey (Francis Lincoln, $55), celebrates 400 years of fashion promotion, from the Renaissance to the end of the art deco period. Robinson, a lifelong collector of fashion images, has culled 350 of them from his vast archive. The works of art, including photogravure, pochoir, woodcuts, and engravings, prove Robinson’s point that fashion illustrations, far too long overlooked by art and history academics, “wordlessly carry within them so much information, both historical and cultural.”
What John James Audubon did for birds, artist and naturalist Titian Ramsay Peale (1799–1885) did for butterflies, but unless you visited the Rare Book Collection at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, you wouldn’t have had a chance to view his unpublished manuscript. Now, nearly 100 years after its donation to the museum, you can. The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript has just been published for the first time, by the American Museum of Natural History in association with Abrams ($40). The book features all of the plates (mostly gouache) from Peale’s original manuscript, as well as reproductions of additional sketches, watercolors, and artifacts.
Hartwood: Bright, Wild Recipes from the Edge of the Yucatan (Artisan, $40) by Eric Werner and Mya Henry, with Christine Muhle and Oliver Strand, takes the reader on a culinary adventure to a beachside jungle. Five years ago, Werner and Henry left their jobs and what Werner describes as their “high-RPM” life in New York to open Hartwood, a restaurant in Tulum that has no roof, no walls, and little electricity. There, Werner creates food that has won accolades from such renowned chefs as Alice Waters and René Redzepi (who contributes the book’s foreword). Vibrant photographs of the food and the region accompany the recipes.
Ambitious in scope, Body of Art (Phaidon, $59.95), with an introduction by Jennifer Blessing, traces visual representations of the human form from prehistory to the present. The 440 pages of color images, accompanied by concise text, are organized thematically into 10 chapters, including “Beauty,” “Identity,” “Religion & Belief,” “The Body’s Limits,” and “The Abject Body.” Thought-provoking juxtapositions abound: the Greek sculptor Myron’s Discobolos (ca. 470–440 B.C.E.) opposite Robert Longo’s drawing Untitled, from his Men in the Cities series (1979–1982); Raphael’s The Three Graces (1504–1505) next to Fernand Léger’s Three Women (1921–1922); Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque (1814) above the Guerilla Girls’ 1989 poster Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get into the Met Museum?
In Lois Greenfield: Moving Still (Chronicle, $60), the photographer, who has worked with dancers from major companies including Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theatre, and Martha Graham, showcases her creative output from the past two decades, when she transitioned from black-and-white film to digital color. Though the photographs give the illusion of dancers in infinite space, Greenfield shot them in her studio, just seven meters wide. As William Ewing writes in his introduction, “This highly respected image-maker is no conventional ‘dance photographer.’ Her real interest is not the dance, but the expressive potential of the human body in motion.”
100 Documents That Changed the World by Scott Christianson (Rizzoli/Universe, $29.95) distinguishes itself by its breadth of selections from every realm of the historical record: political, religious, polemical, scientific, and pop culture, from East and West. Texts include the expected—the Magna Carta, Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech—but also such documents as the Beatles’ recording contract with EMI and the first tweet.
Though Alexander Girard may not be a household name, he reigns as one of the most important and prolific mid-20th-century designers, whose work spanned textile and graphic design, typography, illustration, furniture and interior design, product and exhibit design, and architecture. Among his projects were collaborations with Charles and Ray Eames for the Herman Miller textile and furniture company, and his total environmental designs for the famed 1960s restaurant La Fonda del Sol in New York’s Time-Life Building, and for Braniff International Airways, for which he designed everything from uniforms and furniture to sugar packets. For Alexander Girard (Ammo, $59.95), Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee researched the entire Girard archive to present 672 pages and 15 pounds worth of a career.
A more humble, design-you-can-use approach is found in Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home by Maxwell Ryan and Jane Laban (Potter Style, $35), the team behind the Apartment Therapy website, which boasts 4.1 million monthly unique viewers and hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Chock-full of photographs by Melanie Acevedo of real homes, the book is a start-to-finish guide, from planning a move to floor plans and style approaches for individual rooms.
Running Press launches a project with Turner Classic Movies this season with two books: Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins, with a foreword by Ali McGraw, and Fellini: The Sixties by Manoah Bowman, with a foreword by the late Anita Ekberg ($65 each). The former showcases legends from the silent era to today, including glamorous silent screen siren Norma Shearer and a slick John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Fellini displays selected imagery from films including La Dolce Vita, Boccaccio ’70, 8½, Juliet of the Spirits, Spirits of the Dead, and Fellini Satyricon.
Colombian-born painter and sculptor Fernando Botero’s corpulent figures are instantly recognizable to art scholars and casual museumgoers alike. Botero: Paintings 1959–2015 by Rudy Chiappini (Skira, $85) presents 170 works from every phase of Botero’s career, including his comical reinterpretation of works by masters such as Velázquez and Caravaggio, his series of bullfight paintings, and his voluminous nudes. Also present are darker subjects: his portrayals of violence in Colombia and his most recent series of paintings, depicting the Abu Ghraib prison, heretofore unpublished.
Other Books of Note
Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schultz and the Art of Peanuts (Abrams Comicarts, $40) celebrates the 65th anniversary of the comic strip with text, art direction, and design by Chipp Kidd, photography by Geoff Spear, and an introduction by Jeff Kinney. Original art, preliminary sketches, and previously unpublished comics are reproduced here for the first time.
Florence: The Paintings & Frescoes (1250–1743) by Ross King and Anja Greb (Black Dog & Leventhal, $75) bursts with 708 pages and 2,500 full-color illustrations of every painted work on display in the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, the Accademia, the Duomo, and other Florentine locales.
P Is for Peloton: The A–Z of Cycling written by Suze Clemitson and illustrated by Mark Fairhurst (Bloomsbury, $18) puts a sporty spin on the alphabet. A is not for apple but for Arrivée, the French word for the finish line of a race, and Z is not for zebra but for Zoncolan, the holy grail of climbs in the Italian Alps.
The Charlie Chaplin Archives by Paul Duncan (Taschen, $200), a 560-page compilation (three years in the making), assembles personal letters, sketches, storyboards, posters, on-set photos, and oral histories from Chaplin and his collaborators.
Wayne Thiebaud (Rizzoli, $150) spans the length of the American painter’s career, from the mid-1950s to the present. Thiebaud, known for his brightly colored paintings of ordinary objects such as pies, ties, candy, and cakes, selected more than 200 color plates. Critics Kenneth Baker, Karen Wilkin, and John Yau, and cultural historian Nicholas Fox Weber, contribute essays.
Blue Note: Photos by Michael Cuscuna (Flammarion, $49.95) features 157 black-and-white images of jazz musicians—John Coltrane, Milt Jackson, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, and others—on- and offstage, taken by Blue Note Records cofounder and photographer Francis Wolff, between 1939 and Wolff’s death in 1971.
Plotted: A Literary Atlas by Andrew DeGraff (Pulp/Zest, $24.99) offers original maps of fictional landscapes and locales, including Hamlet’s Elsinore, Ahab’s ocean, Robinson Crusoe’s island of despair, and the warrens of Watership Down.
Frank Stella: A Retrospective (Yale Univ., $65), coinciding with the Whitney Museum’s exhibition of the same name, is a slipcased catalogue showcasing more than 100 works from the artist. The New York Times wrote recently that Stella “has done more than any other living artist to carry abstract art, the house style of modernism, into the postmodern era.”
Heirloom Harvest: Modern Daguerreotypes of Historic Garden Treasures by Amy Goldman, photographs by Jerry Spagnoli (Bloomsbury, $85), is the result of a 15-year collaboration between Goldman, a plant conservationist and heirloom gardener, and Spagnoli, who is at the forefront of revitalizing the daguerreotype process. The fruits and vegetables pictured, such as Raritan Rose peaches and Silverado Shard, are all grown on Goldman’s 200-acre Hudson Valley farmstead.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year (Firefly, $39.95) gathers photographs from the last six years of the competition run by London’s Royal Observatory Greenwich. The images, by photographers of all experience levels, hold appeal for anyone who enjoys looking up at the night sky.
Days of Our Lives: 50 Years by Greg Meng (Sourcebooks, $34.99) is an official retrospective covering five decades of NBC’s longest-running daytime soap. Included are never-before-seen images of the cast, crew, and sets, as well as archival ephemera.
Stitches to Savor: A Celebration of Designs by Sue Spargo (Martingale, $34.99) gathers 200 photographs of handwork quilts crafted by Spargo, a Zambian-born folk artist and designer. The close-up images reveal Spargo’s inventive stitch combinations and the variety of embellishments that make up her textured compositions.
Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors by Kate Gavino (Penguin, $16) is a journey through the literary world. At every reading she attends, Gavino hand-letters the event’s most memorable quotations alongside a portrait of the author, among them Richard Ford, Chuck Palahniuk, Maya Angelou, and Marilynne Robinson.
Evo Supercars: Behind the Wheel of the Greatest Cars of All Time (Octopus/ Mitchell Beazley, $29.99) assembles the 100 top high-performance cars ever built, according to the experts at the U.K.’s Evo automotive magazine. Featured rides include Ferrari Daytona (1968), Lamborghini Diablo (1990), Bugatti Veyron SS (2010), and the Koenigsegg One:1 (2014).
Beauty: Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, edited by Andrea Lipps and Ellen Lupton (Cooper Hewitt, $50), grew out of the museum’s 2015 triennial celebration. The book features the work of 62 designers, completed over the past three years—everything from fashion to architecture, and lighting design to nail design.
Inner Constellations by Maïmoruna Gurerrisi (Glitterati, $75) is the first book of photography by the Italian-born artist, whose figurative photographs are known for their melding of diverse cultural and religious influences. Sometimes called the Sufi Frida Kahlo, she celebrates the spiritual power of the feminine form.
Le Corbusier: The Measures of Man, edited by Olivier Cinqualbre and Frédéric Migayrou (Scheidegger & Spiess, $49), accompanies a retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The 500 images trace Le Corbusier’s achievements in architecture as well as his work as a painter and sculptor.
The Art of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Tolkien scholars Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (HMH, $40), has just been published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the initial publication of the celebrated novel. Collected here are 180 images that represent Tolkien’s complete artwork—drawings, inscriptions, maps, and plans—more than half of which have never before been published.
Sports Illustrated: Super Bowl Gold by the editors of Sports Illustrated (Time Inc./Liberty Street, $40) celebrates 50 years of the annual football spectacle. Each game is brought to life by photography, game facts and summaries, and anecdotes from players and coaches, recalling the emotion and drama of games including the New Orleans Saints’ first win, in 2010 (four seasons after Katrina), and upsets such as the New England Patriots’ 2002 victory over the St. Louis Rams, led by the then little-known quarterback Tom Brady.
The Gathering Storm: The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson (Insight Editions, $50) collects more than 100 of the English graphic designer’s covers for some of the world’s most famous rock albums, including Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. Personal artwork, sketches, and commentary from Thorgerson are included.
Liz Hartman writes frequently about books and art for Publishers Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications.