The Harvard Art Museums embrace teaching and learning in a variety of ways, right down to the books we feature in our shop. Much of the shop is filled with carefully curated books on a wide range of subjects pertinent to our mission, special exhibitions, and permanent collections.
Here are some literary gift ideas for readers (and art enthusiasts) of all ages and interests.
Books that Inspire
These titles reinforce the importance of imagination and originality—traits essential to artistic creation and appreciation.
FOR KIDS: In Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom’s whimsically illustrated picture book What Do You Do with an Idea?, a young child poses the titular question and then explores what it takes (patience, love, persistence, and even courage) to get a great concept off the ground.
FOR ADULTS: The Art of Rivalry, a new book by Pulitzer Prize–winning arts critic Sebastian Smee, is an eye-opening look at four rivalries among pairs of famous artists: Degas and Manet, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, and Freud and Bacon. More than an account of dysfunctional relationships, Smee’s book reveals how the rivalries provoked creative breakthroughs and influenced the artists’ careers.
Each page of these smartly designed books provides bold visuals to complement text.
FOR KIDS: With its screen-printed geometric illustrations, designer Fredun Shapur’s 1965 book Round and Round and Square is as mesmerizing for young children as it is for the adults who read it to them.
Another pick is Pantone: Box of Colour, which features six board books with cut-outs in various shades of orange, yellow, red, green, blue, and purple. (Grown-up complements available in the gift shop are Pantone note cards and notebooks in quirkier hues.)
FOR ADULTS: The sophisticated volume Georgia O’Keeffe’s Watercolors: 1916–1918, by Radius Books and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, features nearly 50 watercolors made by O’Keeffe while she lived in Canyon, Texas. Created during a seminal point in the artist’s career, the colorful paintings explore subjects such as landscape and the body.
Makers and Media
Those interested in creating or conserving art will find compelling (age-appropriate) glimpses into that important work.
FOR KIDS: Dick Bruna’s lift-the-flap board book Miffy the Artist introduces young readers to the joy of art making, from the moment inspiration strikes (at the museum, of course) to the completion and display of masterpieces.
The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, is a cute reminder of the necessity of artistic materials.
FOR ADULTS: The Closer Look Series, produced by the National Gallery in London, provides in-depth discussions of topics relevant to the work of curators, conservators, and art handlers. Featured titles include Colour (exploring different types of pigments and mediums), Conservation of Paintings (delving into modern conservation methods and issues), and Frames (shedding light on the history and creation of an oft-overlooked aspect of art presentation).
Interactive and Functional Finds
Not your typical page-turners, these gifts keep their recipients busy.
FOR KIDS: Hervé Tuillet’s picture book Press Here doubles as a sort of game, capturing young readers’ attention with simple instructions such as “Press the yellow dot.” Illustrations respond to and build upon readers’ actions. (The shop also offers Press Here: The Game, as well as two of Tuillet’s other kids’ titles, Let’s Play! and Mix It Up!)
FOR ADULTS: Uniquely designed blank notebooks are perfect for sketching for artists on the go, as well as students and even causal doodlers; a diverse selection are sold in the shop. Our favorite? The museums’ own custom notebooks, which feature striking cover photos of antique bottles from the Forbes Pigment Collection.
Those needing inspiration—to fill all those blank pages—will find it in Phaidon’s quote-filled Art is the Highest Form of Hope. It features the wisdom of a diversity of artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ed Ruscha, and Sarah Sze.