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Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit of Art Nouveau

A definitive book on Mucha.  Mucha is one of the best draftsmen ever.   His color and paintings skills were superb as well.  I like to introduce him to my students, via this book, by saying "Most good artists settle for being good at just one thing like color or drawing or composition.  Every once in a while an artist comes along that all the other artists hate: an artist who seems to be able to do it all as well as the very best can do their one good thing.  Alphonse Mucha was that kind of artist."

This book is very broad-spirited in covering his commercial work, his photography, graphic design, interior designs, murals, sculpture, etc. etc.  Very thorough treatment of his astonishing breadth  One of my favorite things about this book is it's tendency to show a lot of the preparatory work; color studies, preliminary drawings and such.   Non-Instructional except by example, but a "must-have" book for anyone who appreciates truly great technical skills.

About $65


Odd Nerdrum: Storyteller and Self-Revealer

As mentioned below, Odd Nerdrum is one of the best realist painters living today.  This is a really nice book with large quality reproductions and details.   The text is written by a friend of his apparently, and because it's written in English, is a bit more accessible than the other large Nerdrum book listed below.   Some of the same paintings from the other book are reproduced, but different ones as well.  The text relates some of Nerdrum's opinions about his work and is interesting but a little "promotional" in it's tone.  Still a book worth having if you want to see how paintings are made.  Non-instructional except by example.

About $50


Rembrandt:   The Painter at Work

A really, really neat book.  Written by the head of the RRP (Rembrandt Research Project), this recent book looks at Rembrandt's work scientifically, bringing modern analysis techniques to bear on his life's work.  By looking at things like canvas-weave patterns and by studying contemporary historical documents, they manage to debunk some myths ("the secret medium ingredient"), establish some facts (which canvases came from the same bolt of fabric...and which were cut down and by how much), and they even put forth some new questions about some of the most studied paintings in art history.  Wonderfully illuminated with large reproductions and generous details, it is a fascinating, and educational, book for anyone who enjoys painting. Absolutely gorgeous.

About $80


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The Art of National Geographic: A Century of Illustration
by Alice Carter

Every illustrator and illustration student should own a copy of this book.  I can't recall ever seeing this many phenomenal illustrations printed in one place.   When I show this book to my classes, I ask them to notice how many times they gasp, or say "wow", as I'm turning the pages---and they do----the book is that good.

My favorite thing about the book though is it's appeal isn't limited to artists.  The next time I need to explain what illustration is to a layman, I'm going to hand them this book.  The work inside stands up against some of the best art of any century.  Buy it, you won't regret it.

About $50


Famous American Illustrators

There aren't many books I think every student should own, but every illustration student should own this one.  Essentially a survey of the members of the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, it's a great sampler showing some representative samples of their work and a brief description of their place in the history of illustration.  

It's a worthy book just from a historical point of view.  These people are the Babe Ruth's and Willie May's of the illustration field and their work should be familiar to every aspiring illustrator.  Beyond that, I think it's more valuable than the annuals, these are the best of the best...and some of the work shown in this book is just breathtaking.  Richly illustrated, this book is a visual treat.

About $55


The Red Rose Girls
by Alice Carter

Another book by my colleague at San Jose State, the story of three early 20th century women illustrators, their housekeeper, and the life the led.  A Pulitzer Prize nominee, and an excellent historical text on early American Illustration.

About $30

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The Shock of the New
by Robert Hughes

The only art critic worth reading, this is an excellent history of 20th century art.  Accessible to the interested layman and extremely lucid, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who looks at modern art and wonders if someone is trying to pull a fast one.  Hughes is very insightful about what the artists are actually doing, rather than what is being said, and in doing so, he does a great job of separating the masterful work from the pretenders.  A no BS look at the 20th century art world. 

About $35


Odd Nerdrum: Paintings

Odd Nerdrum is one of the best realist painters living today.  I think this is the best book on his work VISUALLY.  The text is in Swedish or Norwegian so it's hard to know how good the actual text is.  Excellent large quality reproductions and with many almost actual size details of the paintings.  An excellent "shelf-book" for anyone who wants to learn to paint via looking at examples.  Highly recommended to all painting students.  Non-instructional except by example.

About $75


Lucien Freud Paintings

The most affordable quality book on Freud's work.  The text is by Robert Hughes, (see "Shock of the New" above) the only art critic I can stomach, but the reason you would buy it is for the paintings.  Freud is another of the great living painters of our era and this book shows a career worth of work.  A bargain for the price.  Non-Instructional except by example.

About $35


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Barry Moser's Illustrated Bible

I am not a religious person.  BUT, when I saw some of the sample spreads from this project of Barry's, I knew I had to get it.  It's the first fully illustrated Bible (Old and New Testament) by one artist, since the 19th century, and it's a truly incredible example of the fine art of bookmaking.  Fortunately, since the handmade copies are affordable only by fine book collectors, (they sell for about $10,000 each!) they've released a trade edition for the rest of us.  Barry's forte is his woodcuts, and this Bible has over 200 of them.  Incredible work.

Check out the website devoted to the project, and once there, check out the pages devoted to the illustrations.

About $65


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