Research: Project 2: An artist’s book

An artist’s book is a “book of which the artist is the author.” Clive Phillpot – issue of Art Documentation


Hans Peter Feldmann

Late 1960s, produced a series of small books titled Bild (Picture) or Bilder (Pictures), containing a number of black and white photographs on a particular subject. They were of ordinary subjects, 14 mountains, 12 views of aircraft in the sky, 11 sets of women’s knees, 6 pictures of football players. Unlike Ruscha and Gerhard Richter, these books do not form the basis for further art work. They are the work itself and their meaning is left to the viewer.


Wolfgang Tillmans

Born in Germany but now lives in London. Won the Turner Prize in2000. Tillman considers the printed page to be an important venue for his work and is involved in the publication of artist’s books. He is a fine art photographer.


Sol Le Witt

“Books are the best medium for many artists working today,” Sol Lewitt remarked. He was a pioneer of artist’s books and co-founder of New York’s Printed Matter bookstore .


I went further with research into artists’ books at the V&A : ‘Artists’ books are books made or conceived by an artist. There are fine artists who make books and book artists who produce work exclusively in that medium. Artists’ books that maintain the traditional structure of a book are often known as book art or book works while those that reference the shape of a book are known as book objects. A fascinating subject!

Artists have been associated with the written word since illuminated manuscripts in the medieval period. Books as an artistic enterprise we have William Blake at the end of the 18th century and William Morris at the Kelmscott Press in the 1890s.

Livre d’artiste, also known as livre de peintre sees the beginning of the contemporary artist’s book. This originated in France at the turn of the 20th century. These books are distinguished by the fact that the pages are printed directly from a source created by the artist.

In the 1950s and 1960s Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth and American artist Ed Ruscha created conceptual works which were the foundation of the artist’s book genre…intended as art works in their own right.

In the 1980s and 1990s many more artists began to use the ‘book’ as a means of creative expression…

  • From traditional to experimental
  • Promote the art of letterpress printing and the handcrafted book
  • Some use computer generated images
  • Experimental with the content and the physical structure of the book

20th and 21st century artists who have been associated with bookart:

Balthus, Louise Bourgeous, Daniel Buren, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Chillida, Sol Lewitt, Richard Long, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg.


I spent some time during the research looking at ‘book art’ and ‘book objects’ and noted some examples. This is an amazing genre and the creativity is exceptional. It is yet another huge area of creativity to explore.

I also went into the mechanics of making a book. This is an extraordinary world and I was again amazed at the creativity.

I can see huge potential in the world of book art and I’m sure if I was doing this research earlier in my life, it is something which would have absorbed me. It is fascinating how many ‘worlds’ open up in which individuals express their creativity and inspiration, It’s like a never ending bubbling stream!





About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
This entry was posted in Part 5, Research & Reflection. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s