Audiobooks offer an accessible and enjoyable way to explore the rich and diverse history of art, making it an ideal learning format for both enthusiasts and novices alike. They are especially great for those who are time-poor, you can learn about art history while cooking, cleaning or commuting. These are the best art history audiobooks.
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson is a comprehensive biography of the Italian Renaissance artist, inventor, and scientist. The audiobook spans over 17 hours and is narrated by Alfred Molina.
The book explores the life and work of da Vinci, delving into his personal life, artistic achievements, and scientific discoveries. Isaacson emphasizes da Vinci’s insatiable curiosity and his ability to connect different fields of knowledge, from art to anatomy to engineering.
Isaacson also examines some of da Vinci’s most famous works, including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and discusses the social and cultural context in which they were created.
Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman is a biography of the famous Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh and his relationship with his younger brother Theo. The audiobook is narrated by Philip Fox.
The book explores the complex and often troubled relationship between the two brothers, who were devoted to each other despite their many differences. Heiligman uses letters and other primary sources to provide a detailed account of their lives, including Vincent’s struggles with mental illness and his artistic development, and Theo’s career as an art dealer.
The audiobook also offers insights into the social and cultural context of the time, including the impact of Impressionism and other art movements on Vincent’s work, and the challenges faced by artists and art dealers in the late 19th century.
ArtCurious by Jennifer Dasal
ArtCurious by Jennifer Dasal is an entertaining and informative exploration of the stranger side of art history. The audiobook, narrated by Jennifer Dasal herself, features a collection of fascinating stories and anecdotes about some of the most bizarre, scandalous, and mysterious events in the art world.
Dasal covers a wide range of topics, from the strange and sometimes dangerous materials used by artists throughout history to the secrets behind famous artworks like the Mona Lisa and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. She also delves into the lives of eccentric artists like Salvador Dali and Yayoi Kusama and uncovers the hidden meanings and symbolism in famous works of art.
Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
Provenance by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo is a true story about the art world’s biggest fraud. The audiobook, narrated by Robin Sachs, follows the story of John Myatt, a struggling artist who became involved in a scheme to create and sell fake works of art that were passed off as the creations of famous artists like Picasso and Matisse.
Salisbury and Sujo use extensive research and interviews to trace the elaborate scheme, which involved forging signatures, creating fake documentation, and even replicating the aging process of old paintings. The audiobook also examines the broader context of the art market, including the role of art dealers, collectors, and auction houses in perpetuating fraud.
The Vanishing Velázquez by Laura Cumming
The Vanishing Velázquez by Laura Cumming is a gripping detective story that explores the mystery of a lost painting by the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez. The audiobook, narrated by Siobhan Redmond, follows the journey of Cumming’s father, who discovered a painting that he believed was a long-lost work by Velázquez.
Cumming uses her father’s discovery as a starting point to explore the life and work of Velázquez, as well as the broader context of art history in Spain and Europe during the 17th century. The audiobook also examines the politics, religion, and culture of the time and the impact they had on Velázquez’s work.
The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor
The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor is a true story about the Gustav Klimt painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, also known as The Woman in Gold. The audiobook, narrated by Coleen Marlo, traces the painting’s turbulent history, from its creation in Vienna in the early 20th century to its theft by the Nazis during World War II, and its eventual return to its rightful owner in the 21st century.
O’Connor uses extensive research and interviews to bring to life the stories of the painting’s subjects, including Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish woman who was one of Klimt’s most important patrons, and her family, who lost everything during the Nazi occupation of Austria.
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter is a true story about a group of Allied soldiers tasked with rescuing art and cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The audiobook, narrated by Jeremy Davidson, follows the journeys of these brave men and women as they risk their lives to save works of art that represent the cultural heritage of Europe.
Edsel and Witter use extensive research and interviews to bring to life the stories of the Monuments Men, including their triumphs and tragedies, and the impact of their work on the postwar world. The audiobook also examines the broader context of the war, including the Nazi’s cultural policies, and the Allied response to these policies.
The Art Detective by Philip Mould
The Art Detective by Philip Mould is a memoir by one of the world’s most renowned art dealers and experts, detailing his many years of experience in the art world. The audiobook, narrated by James Langton, is a fascinating journey through the art market and the detective work involved in authenticating and restoring masterpieces of art.
Mould shares his expertise and passion for art history and restoration, giving listeners a behind-the-scenes look into the art world and the many challenges involved in uncovering hidden treasures and uncovering forgeries. The audiobook features many stories of Mould’s successes and failures, as well as his encounters with some of the most iconic works of art in history.
In Montmartre by Sue Roe
In Montmartre by Sue Roe is a captivating audiobook that explores the bohemian culture and artistic revolution that took place in Paris’ Montmartre district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Narrated by Emma Bering, the audiobook delves into the lives and works of some of the greatest artists of the time, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque.
Roe’s rich storytelling style brings to life the vibrancy and energy of the Montmartre art scene, highlighting the artists’ struggles, successes, and rivalries. She also examines the broader cultural and historical context of the era, including the political upheaval and social change that characterized the period.
Vanished Smile by R. A. Scotti
Vanished Smile by R. A. Scotti is a gripping audiobook that explores the theft and recovery of one of the world’s most famous works of art, the Mona Lisa. Narrated by Eliza Foss, the audiobook details the daring heist of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 and the subsequent investigation to recover the stolen masterpiece.
Scotti delves into the story of the mastermind behind the theft, Vincenzo Peruggia, and the many twists and turns in the investigation to recover the painting. She also examines the lasting impact of the theft on the art world and the cultural significance of the Mona Lisa.
The Last Leonardo by Ben Lewis
The Last Leonardo by Ben Lewis is an intriguing audiobook that tells the story of the discovery and sale of Salvator Mundi, a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Narrated by Peter Noble, the audiobook follows the fascinating journey of the painting from its discovery in a New Orleans auction house to its eventual sale at Christie’s in 2017 for a record-breaking $450 million.
Lewis delves into the controversial debates surrounding the painting’s attribution and authenticity, as well as the complex politics and personalities involved in the art world. He also examines the broader cultural and historical context of the painting, including its possible links to the Renaissance master.
Turner by Franny Moyle
Turner by Franny Moyle is a fascinating audiobook that explores the life and works of the renowned British artist J.M.W. Turner. Narrated by John Sackville, the audiobook delves into the artist’s early years and follows his career as he became one of the most influential and celebrated painters of his time.
Moyle provides rich detail on Turner’s personal life, including his relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners, as well as his artistic development and creative process. She also examines the broader cultural and historical context of Turner’s era, including the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Romanticism.
The History of Western Art by Peter Whitfield
The History of Western Art by Peter Whitfield is an insightful audiobook that provides an overview of the development of art in Western civilization. Narrated by Sebastian Comberti, the audiobook covers the period from ancient Greece to the present day, exploring the major movements, styles, and artists that have shaped the course of Western art.
Whitfield offers engaging and informative commentary on a wide range of topics, including the impact of religion, politics, and technology on the production and reception of art. He also provides detailed analysis of individual works, from the Parthenon to Picasso’s Guernica.