Art Tours for Book Lovers

Art Tours for Book Lovers

Art Tours for Book Lovers is an exciting program that unites art with literature. Existing book clubs are invited to read a featured book and then visit the Museum for a docent-guided tour of related artwork. To schedule your tour and receive a book discussion guide, please click here to complete our tour request form.

Ongoing Tours:

Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel

Multiple picture frames with images

The journey west, a migration that more than a quarter of a million people made during the mid-1800s, is a story that dominates American history, folklore, and imagination. This era of change and discovery wasn’t solely the domain of frontiersmen: women who made this journey are integral to the narrative, too. These diaries provide unique, personal, and accurate glimpses into the lives of the women who traveled west.

A Buffalo in the House: The True Story of a Man, an Animal, and the American West by R. D. Rosen

Book cover showing a male, a buffalo, and a landscape

In nineteenth-century America, politicians were concerned with removing impediments to westward expansion. Among them: the buffalo. This story explores the complicated history—including the near extinction—of this majestic animal and a family’s single-handed attempt to save just one buffalo. First and foremost, however, it’s a true story about the love between Charlie, the titular “buffalo in the house,” and his human companions. 

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

Book cover

The Madonnas of Leningrad is a story of imagination and memory. In the fall of 1941, as German troops approached Leningrad, Marina, a young tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, along with other staff members, was instructed to remove the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, yet leave the frames hanging empty on the walls, a symbol of the artwork's eventual return. To hold on to sanity when the Luftwaffe's bombs began to fall, Marina burned into memory these exquisite artworks, room by room, painting by painting. She used them to furnish a "memory palace," a personal Hermitage that remained with her the rest of her life.

Uniting Literature and Art

The UMFA houses numerous Madonna paintings that span many centuries and countries. Visit the Museum, view various Madonna paintings, and then imagine the frames empty. Is there a particular painting in your memory that has significant meaning in your life?

Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis

Book cover

Strapless is a true story of the scandal surrounding John Singer Sargent's painting, Madame X, one of the most famous—and infamous—paintings of the nineteenth century. Unveiled at the 1884 Paris Salon, the painting immediately generated attention and criticism because Sargent had painted one strap of the sitter's dress dangling from her shoulder. In Strapless, Deborah Davis reveals the real "Madame X," a young American-born French socialite notorious for her beauty and rumored infidelities. This book offers a fascinating look into the decadent lives of Parisian high society in the mid-1800s.

Uniting Literature and Art

Visit the UMFA and view an original portrait by John Singer Sargent. Discover why portraits of all kinds have been an important and enduring part of world history. You will also get the inside scoop about works of art in the Museum’s collection that have a hint of scandal behind their creation.

Memoirs of Madame Vigée Lebrun translated by Lionel Strachey

Book cover

Meet a famous French artist, mother, and woman of the world who consorted with the kings and queens of Poland, Russia and France. Serious and very good at what she did, Lebrun was Queen Marie Antoinette's favorite portrait painter. Lebrun's portraits brought in large sums of money, yet she only carried with her a small allowance. Her soirees were the envy of Paris, but she fled her home during the French Revolution and traveled for twelve years in a carriage through a turbulent, revolutionary Europe. Find out more about this determined woman and her commitment to realizing her talents as an artist from her own writing in her lively memoirs.

Uniting Literature and Art

Visit the UMFA and view Vigée Lebrun's exquisite portrait of Russian Princess Eudocia Ivanovna Galitzine. Discover why Lebrun painted the princess in classical dress holding a basket of pink roses on her head. Learn about a second Lebrun portrait in the Museum's collection and LeBrun's artistic connection to Raphael.

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr

Book cover

The Lost Painting is a compelling true story of mystery and serendipity. In the seveneenth century, the renowned yet troubled Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio painted The Taking of Christ, a celebrated masterpiece of its time. Two centuries later, it vanished without a trace. For the next two hundred years, art historians and art aficionados tried to locate Caravaggio's famous painting. The Lost Painting chronicles the intense search for The Taking of Christ and its eventual discovery and restoration.

Uniting Literature and Art

Visit the UMFA and see firsthand how Caravaggio's revolutionary style influenced other Italian painters. You will also view several works in the Museum's collection that have been painstakingly conserved, each with its own story of discovery.