I. The Goldfinch 
In The Goldfinch, one boy comes to terms with his tragic past while clinging to one work of art that still reminds me of his late mother, an exquisite painting of a goldfinch created in 1654 by Carel Fabritius. This is a great book about growing up, friendship, love, loss and hope. Even though The Goldfinch is an international bestseller, I hold Tartt’s two previous books – The Secret History  and The Little Friend  – in an even higher esteem.
II. My Name is Red 
Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk has crafted something magnificent, unputdownable and exquisite with this book. Pamuk’s novel is part murder mystery, part meditation on history and the nature of art. When one of the miniaturists working in the Ottoman Empire is murdered, the suspicion falls on the three remaining, but who is the murderer and will Black, a recently returned miniaturist, help solve the murder? This is a beautifully- written novel with unreliable narrators, red herrings, and unexpected and delightful forays into the very nature of art-making in the Ottoman Empire.
III. The Blazing World 
Siri Hustvedt is an intelligent writer whose main character in The Blazing World is one extraordinary woman. At first, Harriet Burden is presented to us as the wife of the late Felix Lord, a well-known artist. Unbeknown to many, however, Burden started her own experiment whereby she presented her installation pieces as artworks completed by three other individuals – three men – Tish, Eldridge and Rune. What will be the consequences of her experiment? The Blazing World is an unusual, deep and intellectually-stimulating novel about stereotyping and challenges facing female artists. It tries to answer such questions as what constitutes art? and do our perception of it changes if we get to know the artist behind the creation?
IV. The Picture of Dorian Gray 
I have to admit that I read this book by Oscar Wilde a long time ago now, but I recall its unbelievable impact. This is story of Dorian Gray, a handsome dandy who makes a sort of a “contract” (if I recall?) whereby a painting of his ages, while he remains perpetually beautiful. Set in London, this book is about the dangers of choosing youth and beauty over goodness and kindness, and it also showcases the society’s blindness to the things that truly matter, its corruption and its moral disintegration. This is an elegant, vivid novel about art and life.
V. Girl with a Pearl Earring 
Tracy Chevalier’s bestseller takes as its subject matter the painting of c. 1665 by Johannes Vermeer titled Girl with a Pearl Earring. It shows an unknown girl wearing a turban and pearl earrings. The book is rather slow, but full of (hidden) details and passion. It would have been nice to have more substance to this book, but with such a painting as its subject matter, a writer cannot possibly go wrong, can she? The book is also a film of 2003 starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson in the lead roles.
VI. The Recognitions 
This ambitious novel by William Gaddis is now considered to be the “most overlooked important work of the last several literary generations” (Ozick). It more or less tells the story of a minister Wyatt Gwyon who abandons his calling to embark on a career of a painter. In his journey, he finds that he is forced to resort to morally-dubious tasks, including to making forgeries. Both overwhelming and erudite, The Recognitions is now widely acknowledged to be a long-ignored masterpiece.
VII. An Artist of the Floating World 
Kazuo Ishiguro has always been an “uneven” author for me, but I worship some of his literary creations above all others – including his incomparable literary achievement that is The Remains of the Day  and his enigmatic The Unconsoled . In An Artist of the Floating World, we follow a Japanese painter during and after the WWII as he reflect on events and his life. This is a rather personal tale that is also melancholic and haunting. Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel Klara & the Sun , about artificial intelligence and love, is due to hit the shelves in March 2021.
This list was in no particular order, and for the purposes of this list I defined “visual art” as paintings and installation art. Do you have a favourite book that revolves around visual art (maybe including sculpture, architecture, photography & film-making)? What fiction books about artists in general come to your mind?