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15 Book Covers Featuring Memorable Paintings

2023 Edition

15 Book Covers Featuring Memorable Paintings

2023 Edition

In 2022, book covers adorned with paintings experienced a surge in popularity, captivating readers with their artistic allure. This trend persisted throughout the following year, with publishers continuing to embrace the timeless charm of painted artwork in 2023. In this article, we revisit some of the most unforgettable book jackets that graced the shelves during this year. If you want to see more book covers that use full bleed paintings, explore the imagery category “paintings,” which can be accessed from the filter bar on the Book Covers homepage.

If you’re an author intrigued by the idea of incorporating a historic painting onto your book cover but are unsure about the rights and restrictions involved, we suggest learning more by reading this article about using stock art on a book jacket.

1. The River of No Return

Designer: Elena Giavaldi

The cover art for What Napoleon Could Not Do (Riverhead, 2023) was completed by Amoako Boafo, a Ghanaian artist based in Vienna and Accra. Boafo is renowned for his vibrant portraits that challenge representations of Blackness by celebrating the diversity and complexity of his subjects. His work has garnered international acclaim, with exhibitions and collaborations worldwide, and his paintings are prominently featured in prestigious private and public collections, reflecting his significant impact on the contemporary art scene.

2. The Wren, The Wren

Author: Anne Enright

Designer: Kate Sinclair

The cover artwork used on the Canadian edition of The Wren, The Wren, by Anne Enright, was painted by Dariusz Grabus. Grabus is an artist working across painting, photography, and architecture, and exhibits a distinctive style characterized by a synthesis of geometric forms and bold colors. Influenced by both realism and pop art, his work captures everyday interactions with a focus on the individual’s relationship to space. Dariusz Grabus’s pieces, rich in Mediterranean architectural inspiration and luminous tones, are esteemed additions to private collections worldwide.

3. Small World

Author: DK Nnuro

Designer: Allison Saltzman

The cover artwork for Small World by Laura Zigman was painted by Jessica Brilli. Jessica Brilli, (b. Sayville, NY), combines American realism with 20th-century graphic design aesthetics to highlight the beauty of everyday scenes and objects. A different painting of hers was used on the book cover for Leave The World Behind in 2020.

On her Instagram, art director Allison Saltzman explained how this cover came about: When she learned that author Laura Zigman envisioned a particular house in Boston as the residence of the main characters, she commissioned Jessica Brilli to visit the specific location and transform it into this charming, bespoke cover art.

4. Paul

Author: Daisy Lafarge

Designer: Vi-An Nguyen

The painting of the woman used on the jacket of Paul by Daisy Lafarge is by Kate Holley. The designer, Vi-An Nguyen, added the yellow stroke to signify the character’s arc of losing, then regaining, her voice. In Vi-An’s words, “I always love paintings on book covers but it was particularly appropriate in this case, especially a painting with such tangible brushstrokes, because of the novel’s themes of art vs. artist. It’s a gorgeous read, highly recommend!”

5. The Glutton

Author: A.K. Blakemore

Designer: Alicia Tatone

The cover art for The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore is a mash-up of two different paintings. This jacket was shortlisted for the 2024 Bridgeman Images International Book Cover Award.

6. Ripe

Author: Sarah Rose Etter

Designer: Natalia Olbinski

The cover artwork for Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter uses a painting by the artist Angela Faustina. As her website says, “Angela Faustina is a contemporary realism artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her sticky-sweet oil paintings transform glistening fruit into its own unique world. A cross between realism and idealism, these are not your traditional still life paintings.”

7. Vintage Contemporaries

Author: Dan Kois

Designer: Olivia McGiff

The cover art for Vintage Contemporaries was illustrated by cover designer Olivia McGiff. Olivia is a designer and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY. Her illustration style weaves together creamy colors, text, and an appreciation for the everyday objects, foods, and characters that clutter our lives. Olivia is the illustrator of Cocktails in Color (Union Square & Co), co-authored with Sammi Katz.

8. A Perfect Vintage

Author: Chelsea Fagan

Well, isn’t this fun: You can own your very own museum quality, premium Giclee printing of this painting by Elizabeth Lennie today! Prints of this sunbather are available on luxurious canvas and fine art paper. Visit the author’s website for more information. If you’d like to see 10 other books that feature other paintings from Elizabeth, visit her website. To view the original painting, which the author has hanging in her house, click here.

9. Learned By Heart

Author: Emma Donoghue

Designer: Lucy Kim

The background image used in the cover art for Learned By Heart by Emma Donoghue is called “Malabar beauty” and was painted by Raja Ravi Varma  (1848–1906). This jacket was shortlisted for the 2024 Bridgeman Images International Book Cover Award.

10. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea

Author: Debra Magpie Earling

Designer: Mary Austin Speaker

The cover art for The Lost Journals of Sacajewea by Debra Magpie Earling was painted by John James Audobon.

11. Commitment

Author: Mona Simpson

Designer: Jenny Carrow

This cover art for Commitment by Mona Simpson was painted by Lee Heinen. Of her own style, the artist writes, “As with poetry, I try to be concise, to eliminate the extraneous and allow the viewer to fill in details. The subjects are flattened and simplified, recalling the work of Milton Avery and Alex Katz. I’m drawn to minimalism, perhaps because of my Quaker background. The Quaker aesthetic, from meeting houses to their clothing and speech, is unadorned and, in its way, pure. This style also highlights a theme that’s important to me: the solitariness of humanity. We ultimately wrestle with the devil alone, and one can detect that essential isolation in many of these figures.”

12. Do You Remember Being Born?

Author: Sean Michaels

Designer: Kate Sinclair

The cover artwork for Sean Michael’s Canadian edition of Do You Remember Being Born? features a painting by Jim Holland. Holland’s paintings can be purchased through his gallery.

13. Really Good, Actually

Author: Monica Heisey

Designer: Mumtaz Mustafa

The cover art for Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey was painted by Sari Shryack. Sari is an oil and acrylic painter based in Austin, Texas. Her colorful works cover many different subjects and techniques including landscape, still life, portraits, disco balls, and even memes.

14. Hurricane Summer

Author: Asha Ashanti Bromfield

Designer: Kerri Resnick

This painting used on Asha Ashanti Bromfield’s Hurricane Summer was created by the talented artist Gank Pansuay. Gank Pansuay is a Thai artist. He returns to the subject of black women, often sporting lush, natural hair, again and again in his work.

15. My Husband

Author: Maud Ventura

Designer: Alicia Tatone

The artwork used on the jacket of Maud Ventura’s My Husband is by Annie Kevans. Kevans is celebrated for her distinctive artistic style, which merges realism with conceptual depth. Her paintings captivate audiences with their bold exploration of power dynamics, gender representation, and historical reinterpretation. Through meticulous attention to detail and a penchant for challenging traditional portraiture, Annie Kevans creates thought-provoking artworks that blur the lines between reality and perception.

Key Elements of an Outstanding Painting-Forward Book Cover

  1. Relevance and connection to the story (Small World)
  2. “Busy enough” that there is movement (The Glutton)
  3. “Simple enough” that added text is readable (Commitment)
  4. Interesting crop (My Husband)
  5. Clear and Compelling Typography (Hurricane Summer)

Finding the Best Cover Artist for Your Painted Book Cover

The “best” book cover artist is subjective and varies according to an author’s specific vision and style preference. However, platforms like the “I Need A Book Cover” Job Board have made it easier for authors to find and collaborate with talented, professional designers like the ones listed in this article who know how to utilize an old or modern painting to create a dynamic, unique book cover.

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