|Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard|
There are some art books I return to again and again. When looking for how- to information, I especially like the landscape painter's bible, Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting. A lot of other artists like it too judging by how often Carlson's information is repeated in workshops and classes.It's a terrific book for someone who doesn't have much painting experience. But what I really like about it is that you can find helpful information and solutions in it's pages at any state of your artistic progress. The language in it is a little dated but that doesn't diminish it's usefulness.
Another book often recommended for landscape painters is Edgar Payne's Composition of Outdoor Painting. It has a lot of thumbnail sketches of composition options, as well as examples of faulty composition. I recently found a book from 1909 called Landscape Painting by Alfred East .It's interesting that it has some of the same descriptions of compositional devices that the Payne book does. I guess that just shows that good ideas get passed from one generation to another.
If I'm looking for technical information like what color the pigment number for "delft blue" might be, I'll turn to Ralph Mayer's Artist Handbook or Ray Smith's New Artist's Handbook. Of course the info can be found online now but sometimes it's just handier to pull a book off the shelf.
Living the Artist Life by Paul Dorrell and The Art Spirit by Robert Henri were two of the first books I replaced after a flood destroyed my 200- book art library. The Dorell book is both inspiring and entertaining.
When I want to see how another artist solved a painting problem, I'll pull a few different books off the shelf. These might include books on the French and American Impressionists including the frequently neglected women artists. I also turn often to California Impressionism by William H Gerdts. A few others I like are Ilya Repin, , A T Hibbard, by John L Cooley, and for portrait and figure work John Singer Sargent by Carter Ratcliff.
Van Gogh was such an example of commitment and belief in his work, that it's interesting to try to figure out how he thought. My bookshelf has many books on Van Gogh including his Complete Letters. The last book added to that collection is Van Gogh The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. What's especially interesting about this recently written book is that it makes sense of all the loose ends and the explanations of events in his life that just didn't ring true. It's sad but a very good read.
These books are a small part of the art library that I'm slowly rebuilding. Sadly a lot of the lost art books I'd been collecting since childhood, are out of print. I still hope to replace the books on World Impressionism, Russian painters, Chinese Brush painters from before the communist era, artists from the golden age of Dutch painting, and an amazing book on Valazquez I often referred to.
So, what are your favorite art books?