These are the ten books on art which have had the most influence on me as a painter over the years. I haven’t listed them in any particular order. I should mention that these are all books for reading, without color reproductions. Clicking on the titles takes you to the Amazon.com (U.S.) page for each book.
- The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner by Friedrich Nietzsche. Even though it has nothing to do with painting, this book probably influenced my views on art more than any other that I’ve read.
- Neoclassicism and Romanticism, 1750-1850: Sources and Documents by Lorenz Eitner. An incredible collection of writings by painters and sculptors from back when artists were the only experts on art.
- Pagan Mysteries In The Renaissance by Edgar Wind. This book introduced me to iconography and really blew my mind when I first read it. There are more great books on the subject by Wind’s teacher, Erwin Panofsky.
- Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color by Philip Ball. Great book on artist’s pigments by an excellent author.
- The Enjoyment and Use of Color by Walter Sargent. There are a lot of books on color, this is the best one that I’ve read.
- The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed. The classic book on drawing.
- Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne. Excellent book on landscape compostion by the great plein air painter.
- The Artistic Anatomy of Trees by Rex Vicat Cole. The first two chapters on landscape painting in general are brilliant.
- The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents by J. J. Pollitt. Excellent resource for studying Greek sculpture. Also interesting to see how much art history repeats itself.
- The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer. My favorite out of the number of materials handbooks available.
The two children’s books which I still remember from when I was a small child are Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World by Ed Emberley and Frederick by Leo Lionni. If you want to keep your child from becoming an artist, these are two books you should avoid.
If anyone has other great art books to add, please put them in the comments.