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Art Imitating Art: Perkins’ Recommended Reads

Fictional accounts based on real-life artists or existing works. Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” He was alluding to scientific progress, but the statement holds true for the arts as well.

Fictional accounts based on real-life artists or existing works.

Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” He was alluding to scientific progress, but the statement holds true for the arts as well. When we think about the vast realm of human achievements it is easy to credit success to individuals. But it would be a mistake to forget that no human endeavor, art included, would be possible without the influence and work of predecessors.

In the spirit of that sentiment, this list compiles titles which have been influenced in some way by other artists, writers or works. Whether it be a historical fiction book that delves into the private life of a noted artist, a remix of a classic, or a novel which started its life as fanfiction. All these books are homages to those who have come before.

Digital book (DB), braille (BR), large print (LT), and audio described videos (DVD) copies of these titles are available from the Perkins Library or the Worcester Talking Book Library. Please contact the library to order any of these books.

Prepared by Chelsea Wood
Reader Services/Reference Librarian
Perkins Library

The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo

Irving Stone

Traces the Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s life and career from his youthful apprenticeships to the painter Ghirlandaio and the sculptor Bertoldo to his celebrated years as a master artist. 1961.

Download The Agony and the Ecstasy, DB 53802

The Art Forger

Barbara Shapiro

In this provocative caper that leads readers through twisty back alleys of art history, art theft, and Faustian bargains, a stolen Degas from 1990’s infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist arrives in the studio of a young Boston artist with a talent for forgery. Contains some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2012.

Download The Art Forger, DBC 712

Carry On

Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow, from Fangirl (DB 77545), returns to Watford School of Magicks, but he has trouble with his magic. To make matters worse, he has a questionable mentor, a romantic breakup, and there’s a monster running around wearing his face. For senior high and older readers. 2015.

Download Carry On, DB 85471

City of Bones

Cassandra Clare

Fifteen-year-old Clary witnesses Jace, Alec, and Isabelle attacking a punk rocker in a Manhattan nightclub. She discovers that the three teens are Shadowhunters, warriors who kill demons. After her mother disappears, Shadowhunters take Clary in, and she learns her family history. Some violence. For senior high readers. 2007.

Download City of Bones, DB 67159

Dorothy Parker Drank Here

Ellen Meister

Dorothy Parker haunts the Algonquin Hotel thanks to a magical guest book. Lonely, she tries to convince reclusive, dying author Ted Shriver to sign the book and stay forever. Meanwhile, TV producer Norah Wolfe needs Parker’s help to get Shriver on her talk show. Some strong language. 2015.

Download Dorothy Parker Drank Here, DB 81060


Rainbow Rowell

Eighteen-year-old Cath’s adoration of fantasy character Simon Snow leads to her penning a fanfiction story that is popular online. Offline, shy Cath is out of her comfort zone at her new college—until romance finds her. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. For senior high and older readers. 2013.

Download Fangirl, DB 77545

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Tracy Chevalier

A fictional account of how the seventeenth-century artist Vermeer came to paint a portrait of a young woman wearing a pearl earring. When sixteen-year-old Griet, a Protestant, becomes a maid in Vermeer’s Catholic household, the drudgery of her duties is offset by working in the artist’s studio. Some descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 1999.

Download Girl with a Pearl Earring, DB 50258

Download Girl with a Pearl Earring, BR 13360

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt

At the age of thirteen, Theo Decker survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is raised by wealthy family friends. His one connection to his mother–a painting–draws Theo into New York City’s underground art world as he grows older. Bestseller. 2013.

Download The Goldfinch, DB 77453

The Hours

Michael Cunningham

The spirit of Virginia Woolf permeates the lives of several American readers as evidenced in this trio of tales about the author Woolf, a New Yorker planning a party to honor a writer, and a young mother reading Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (DB 21624, BR 11925). Some strong language. Bestseller. 1998.

Download The Hours, DB 47310

How to Be Both

Ali Smith

Two separate narratives may be read in either order. The characters include a Renaissance artist of the 1460s and a child of a child of the 1960s. Their two stories twist together, exploring love and injustice, reality, and the nature of second chances. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2014.

Download How to Be Both, DB 83133

The Last Nude

Ellis Avery

Agreeing to model nude for Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka in 1927 Paris, young American Rafaela Fano inspires the artist’s most iconic Jazz Age images and becomes her lover while discovering darker truths about Tamara’s private life. Explicit descriptions of sex and strong language. 2012.

Download The Last Nude, DBC 154

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos

Dominic Smith

In the age of Rembrandt, artist Sara de Vos paints an image for the ages. In 1950s New York, a lawyer discovers that the painting he inherited has been replaced by a copy. Fifty years later, the lawyer, the forger, and the paintings are brought together. 2016.

Download The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, DB 84513


Jo Baker

Regency England. In this reimagined tale of the Bennet family, from Pride and Prejudice (DB 50549), the joys and crises of the servants take center stage. The world of orphaned housemaid Sarah changes when a new footman is hired. 2013.

Download Longbourn, DB 77776

Download Longbourn, BR 20385

Loving Frank

Nancy Horan

Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney fall in love, abandon their spouses and children in Chicago, and run away to Europe in 1909. Their five years together are marked by Mamah’s feminist ambitions, her conflicting emotions, and the tragic, unforeseen end of their relationship. Bestseller. 2007.

Download Loving Frank, DB 65372

The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton

Amsterdam, 1686. Nella Oortman arrives from the country, a new bride. Her husband, Johannes Brandt, is aloof, but he gives her a present of a miniature replica of their home. As Nella populates it, she realizes the figurines reveal secrets. Some violence and some descriptions of sex. 2014.

Download The Miniaturist, DB 82051

The Muralist

Barbara Shapiro

While working at an auction house, Danielle discovers anonymous paintings behind the works of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Lee Krasner—compatriots of her great-aunt Alizée, who disappeared in 1940 as war raged in Europe. As Danielle investigates her mystery, the secrets of Alizée’s life are revealed. Some strong language. 2015.

Download The Muralist, DB 84080

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

First published in the late nineteenth century. A beautiful youth has his portrait painted by an artist with a flair for the morbid. The portrait becomes the mirror of its innocent-appearing subject’s inner life. Introduction by Edmund White. 1999.

Download The Picture of Dorian Gray, DB 56794

Download The Picture of Dorian Gray, BR 17780

Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind

Alexandra Ripley

Continues the saga of Scarlett O’Hara which began in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (DB 33082, BR 11427, LT 6575). Scarlett returns to Tara after Melanie’s funeral, but then makes her way to Ireland where she struggles to get Rhett Butler back into her life. The author was chosen by Mitchell’s heirs to write the sequel. Bestseller. 1991.

Download Scarlett, DB 33024

Download Scarlett, BR 11428

A Study in Scarlet Women

Sherry Thomas

Charlotte Holmes knew early on she didn’t want to marry, but her father backed out of his promise to pay for her education. Taken in by retired actress Mrs. Watson, Charlotte now solves police and private cases by pretending to have an ill brother named Sherlock. 2016.

Download A Study in Scarlet Women, DB 87102

Download A Study in Scarlet Women, BR 21783

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Gregory Maguire

Traces the life of the witch Elphaba from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (DB 51047, BR 7872, JL 67, DVD 508), both before and after Dorothy arrives. After attending a university with her roommate Glinda, Elphaba learns that a despotic Wizard is threatening animal rights in Oz. Some explicit descriptions of sex. For senior high and older readers. 1995.

Download Wicked, DB 55810


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