The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers

The Writer's BrushBuy the Book: Amazon


"The itch to make dark marks on paper is shared by many writers and artists," begins John Updike in his essay in The Writer's Brush, and this stunning collection will amaze lovers of the literary and fine arts alike. Author Donald Friedman has gathered 400 paintings, drawings, and sculpture—many from private collections, never before published—by more than 200 of the world's most famous writers, including 13 Nobel laureates.

The result is astounding. Whether viewing the beautiful landscapes that Hermann Hesse credited with saving his life, the manuscript sketches that Fyodor Dostoevsky made of his characters, or the can-can dancers secretly drawn by Joseph Conrad, readers of The Writer's Brush will gain new insights into the lives and minds of their favorite writers and the nature of the creative process itself.

Accompanying the artwork are fascinating biographies that provide little-known details of the writers' lives in the visual arts and offer the writers' own observations on their art and the relationships they saw between word and image. While written for a broad audience, The Writer's Brush is also an essential reference work, with alphabetical and chronological listings of its subjects and an extensive bibliography.

As Friedman notes in his introduction, for many of the writers anthologized here, a coin toss could have determined whether to spend the day standing in a smock or seated with a pen. The Writer's Brush brings together for the first time—in one unique, affordable volume—both worlds of these writers in the definitive work of the writer-artist.

View the Excerpt (PDF)


“One of the most fascinating books of the year.”
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The London Times

“A subversive jewel of an idea, sparkling audaciously on every page of this well-designed book … playfully transgressive… laden with first-person reflections on the ways artists perceive the relationship between distinct yet connected forms of expression… this book celebrates what may be the ultimate artistic calling.”
Leah Hager Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

“Opens windows through which we can glimpse something new and often unexpected about the sensibilities—and the souls—of our favourite writers.”
Francine Prose, O The Oprah Magazine

“A lush collection… Blake, writes Friedman, ‘saw art in all forms as prayer…as inseparable from life, and all life as God.’”
Kristina Lindgren, Los Angeles Times Book Review (Favorite books of 2007)

“Unearths work from literary heavyweights past and present… Sure to cover at least a few of any given lit fan's favorites, Friedman's volume provides hours of fascinating browsing…”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“A grand feat of research and interpretation… Luscious reproductions are matched with pithy biographies…”
Booklist (American Libraries Assoc.) Starred Review

“A surprising anthology… Of greatest interest to general audiences; recommended for public libraries.”
Kraig Binkowski, Yale Ctr. for British Art Lib., New Haven, CT, Library Journal

“The book is a formidable, fascinating achievement.”
Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times

“Brings together reproductions of the art alongside passages that show how it fitted into the writer's life… As readers and thinkers, we are the beneficiaries of such largess.”
April Austin, Christian Science Monitor

“A revelatory book - an immense, well-researched and handsomely illustrated achievement.”
Richard Cork, The Guardian (Book of the week)

“Lovingly researched… there is no limit on the themes… valuable insights.”
Louis Wise, New Statesman

“A different kind of literary museum, chock full of art by writers. Friedman assembles wonders for wondering eyes.”
Susan Larson, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

“A revelatory new book. The Writer’s Brush, the product of Friedman’s lifelong fascination with his subject, offers a lavishly illustrated look at the paintings, drawings and sculptures of some 200 literary figures (several of them among our most recognised names) from the past two centuries – and throws in a series of concise but illuminating (and often delightfully quirky) biographies to boot.”
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, Times Of London

"Little-known work in the visual arts by hundreds of writers - including Kafka, Ibsen, Lawrence, Updike, Vonnegut - casts light both on aspects of their creativity and on the zeitgeist."
Financial Times London (Books of the Year)

“This is a very, very attractive book… There is a considerable degree of pleasure to be had in leafing through the book at random, pausing to examine the types of images that individual authors produce.”
Brian McAvera, Irish Arts Review

“Includes more than four hundred color reproductions of art by more than two hundred writers… a colorful catalogue.”
Poets & Writers Magazine

“Reveals for the first time the artistic side of well-known authors, whose works turns out to be surprisingly professional.”
Valery Oisteanu, The Brooklyn Rail

“Among the nearly two hundred writers on display are likely suspects (Henri Michaux, Beatrix Potter, Edward Lear, André Breton, Guy Davenport) and surprises—Ed McBain (an elegant bronze nude), James A. Michener (a 1966 work in the mode of Jasper Johns), and Sylvia Plath (a color-charged pastoral)…”
Albert Mobilio, Bookforum (

“Celebrates writers for whom painting and drawing are as vital as putting words on paper.”
Jan Gardner, The Boston Globe

“Makes for excellent browsing”
Martin Gayford, Bloomberg (The Year’s Best Art Books) December 8,2007

“A joy. This exquisitely produced tome presented portraits of the writers as artists with an Irish dimension represented by Yeats, Joyce, O'Casey and Bowen among others.”
Irish Sunday Independent (Arts and Books Editor, Madeleine Keane selects TWB as one of her top four books of 2007)

The Writer’s Brush is the work of an enthusiast…and with 400 well-reproduced illustrations, it is astounding value for the money. The quotations Friedman has unearthed about how the writer-artists themselves see their dual activities are of the greatest interest.”
Victoria Glendinning, Spectator

“A beautiful collection…”
Irish Mail

"What fun it must have been to put this book together. Donald Friedman's amusing idea, resulting in this large, handsome, good-value volume, was that many artists have more than one talent, and have worked in more than one art form… Full of surprises, from the first entry, the poet and religious crank AE (George Russell), who was at art school with -tidily -the last entry in this book, William Butler Yeats…"
Paul Levy, The Author

“The joy of this book is in the surprises…. Friedman's potted biographies are full of aperçus, tossing up choppy waves. It is wonderful, too, to have so many previously unseen images, which would otherwise be banked in the temperature-controlled vaults that are the repositories of dead writers archives.”
Jane Hill, The World Of Interiors

“An extremely good idea…fascinating”
BBC Radio 4, Front Row

“A treasure trove”
Artists & Illustrators

“An eye-opener”
The Art Newspaper

“Excellent … will enthral”
Antiques Magazine

Foreign Editions