This list of recommended books is for both the art student and the seasoned artist. These books contain insights that are timeless.
"Constructive Anatomy" Bridgman, George, printed 1920.
This book has been used by artists and and art teachers for nearly one hundred years. This is a 1921 fourth edition. I also have a Dover 1972 edition which I purchased for my first life drawing course. Bridgeman taught at the Art Students League in New York. Copy the sketches and you will gain an understanding of how human anatomy works. You don't need to dissect a body if you have this book.
"The Human Figure" Vandpoel, John H. This book was first published in 1907.
This is the 1915 sixth edition. My Dover edition which was purchased for my first life drawing course in conjunction with the Bridgman book was my constant guide. The Dover edition is printed from the 1936 edition. Invaluable techniques guide the beginning student and help refresh even the best of artists. The figure is broken down into sections. How to draw the head the eyes, nose, torso, hands etc. There are line drawings in the margins of the text. The tone drawings are amazing. You will be glad you added this book to your library.
"Pictorial Composition" Poore, Henry R. Published in 1903.
There just might be a copy out there somewhere. Well written and worth your time and monetary investment. Compostions are explained using examples of old masters and more modern artists. Written in a way that is understandable and a pleasure to read
"Composition of Outdoor Paintings" Payne, Edgar 1941.
This copy was printed in 1985. A difficult book to read because of the technical detail, and the style of prose. But, it is full of sound principles and thumbnail compositional sketches. Examples of split complementary paintings abound. Edgar Payne is a well known landscape artist. There are beautiful color plates of Payne's paintings at the end of the book.
"Elementary Principles of Landscape Painting" Carlson, John F. , 1928.
This is an important book for any landscape painter. Read it, then read it as often as necessary. It is time for me to reread it. A wealth of insights and great sketches to illustrate his points. It is still in print I am sure. Keen observations on how to approach landscape painting.
"Discourses on Art" Reynolds, Sir Joshua.
A compilation of lectures given by Sir Joshua at the Royal Academy. It was first compiled in 1797. This first edition paperback was printed 1965. I am not sure of its availability. Sir Joshua was an English painter known for his portraiture. I was made aware of this book through my figure drawing teacher, Maynard Stewart. Reynolds talks not only of painting but the principles of drawing also.
"The Book of the Art of Cennino Cennini",1437.
This translation was written in 1930. This is a great book that gives insights into techniques and materials of the renaissance era. Cennini writes about the noble ideals of the artist. In it are recipes for painting mediums. A fascinating book, really.
"The Artist's Handbook" Mayer, Ralph, 1940.
This fifth edition was printed in 1945. Chronicles the methods and materials of the artist. There may be newer up to date versions available. It is designed as a reference guide to the materials necessary for the modern artist. Techniques for watercolor, oil and acrylic painting are included.
"The Materials of the Artist" Doerner, Max, 1934.
This edition was published in 1962. Some of the information may be out of date because manufacturing processes have changed. But the chemical interactions between pigments and mediums are unchangeable. The historical methods of creating paintings are accurate. Red is still a fugitive color.
"Vasari's Lives of the Artists" Vasari, Giorgio died 1574.
This edition was published in 1946. Vasari chronicled the lives of the artists of his day and those before the renaissance. He knew some of the artists and gives interesting insights into their lives. I find the biographies of artists fascinating. There may be a version in print somewhere.
"The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci", 1939.
This two volume edition was published in 1958. In amongst the scientific writings you will find insights into how the world around you should be viewed. Leonardo deserves his place in history as one of the greatest artists to ever live. His writings are a must.
"Methods and Materials of Painting, Vols. I & II" Eastlake, Sir Charles ,1847.
This two volume set was published in 1960, or at least this edition was first published in 1960. There are fascinating insights into the lives and materials of the artists. Sir Charles gives detailed analyses of paintings that he is able to see first hand because of his position. An amazing must have for your library. He mentions interesting things such as the annual task at the Louvre of taking tha Mona Lisa outdoors. The purpose was to revitalize the lead white, which yellows when not exposed to the light
"Artists on Art" Goldwater, Robert, 1945.
This paperback version is the 1972 edition and it should still be in print. It is exactly what the title says. First person accounts from artist's diaries and letters. The first artist speaking is Cennino Cennini. Who talks about artistic principles of his time and Giotto the man who started the Rennaissance. The book ends with artists of the twentieth century
"Twilight of Painting" Gammell, R.H.Ives 1946.
The era of painting in nineteenth century France is detailed. Gammell chronicles the rise of painting with the French Academy. He is a contemporary of the modernists. Gammell makes a great case of how painting was killed with the rise of amateur artists unschooled in proper technique. The French had a great system of teaching at the Academy. Traditional painting was destroyed with the advent of impressionism.
The Bible, King James Version, 1619.
With the invention of the Guttenberg press the common man was able to have access to the most important book in the history of the world. You will gain insight into your self and the world around you. The historical stories have been the basis for paintings for 2,000 years. If you have not read the Bible you are missing out on the most important book you will ever read.