I have a small office in our new home. One third of the ceiling slopes down under the roof, and I have two bookcases crammed with novels and comics set against the wall there. Above my monitor is a great expanse of blank wall, and behind me streams in light from the sole large window. The wooden floor is covered with a brightly woven rug, and to my right is the door and the tallest of my bookcases. It’s small, compact, and perfect. Yet the walls are bare–but not for much longer.

I jumped on AllPosters.com and ordered some prints. It felt like wandering down the halls of the Louvre, or the MET, or the Prado, and lifting canvases off the wall to adorn my office with. Surreal and delightful. Here’s what I picked (click on each image to see a larger version):

 Gas, c.1940, by Edward Hopper

I love Hopper, and I love this composition the most. The contrast between the cheery light of the station versus the ominous darkness of the woods as dusk falls is the perfect source of tension. It’s the heart of every fairy tale right there–the island of light surrounded by the menace of the dark.

Birthday, by Marc Chagall

Chagall is the most romantic of painters, and his canvases evoke in me a sense of joy, of promise, of uplifting sweetness and happiness. This best captures how my wife makes me feel, how around her I feel as if I am at times floating, and I can’t wait to have this before me on my wall.

The Artist’s Wife, by Egon Schiele

My mother gave me a large book of Schiele’s prints, and I was fascinated by his ornery intensity, the knobbly hands, how real and earthen his people seemed. No glamour here, but through his intense realism, through the awkwardness of real bodies came through a sense of grace, of beauty, of a dark and physical sexuality. I find his work disturbing, fascinating, and it’s no coincidence that Mario Vargas Llosa based much of the eroticism in In Praise of the Stepmother on Schiele’s art. This print to me is incredibly captivating – Schiele’s wife’s expression is haunting, her gaze direct, challenging, promising, inscrutable.

 Judith 1, by Gustav Kimpt

The cover of the Penguin Classic version of Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch had another portrait of Judith on it, and that crystallized for me how I felt about Kimpt’s work: sensual, ethereal, decadent, mysterious, and fascinating. I find in this print something challenging, an erotic sensibility that transcends the flesh and becomes instead about personality, about the mind. Plus I just love the golden hues.

 Don Quixote in his Library, by Gustave Dore

I first came across Dore when I saw his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno. How vivid and beautiful, how terrible and strange! I was immediately captivated, but not wanting a depiction of Hell on my wall, I settled for this print instead. After all, I fancy myself a dreamer, a writer, and preferred this take on my craft over Goya’s Sleep of Reason.

 Rain, Steam, and Speed, by Joseph Turner

I never really liked Turner when I was young. His paintings seemed little more than smears of egg yolk on huge canvases. But my appreciation for him has deepened, and I now wish I could see his paintings in person once more. This one in particular captivates me, summing as it does all the promise and threat of the Industrial Age. And what a perfect title!

Untitled, by Ando Hiroshige

This print charmed me as I browsed the catalog. I was in fact searching for posters from the anime series Samurai Champloo, but finding none, I passed on to the real art, and in this small falling sparrow I found something delightful, charming, and uplifting. Kawai!