Academy and French Painting by Albert Boime

Very interesting exploration of the different ateliers teaching painting, the painters following the Academy precepts, and those seeking an independent path (including those ateliers who taught those painters who became Impressionists).  Describes the difference between those focused on design (or generation phase) and those on finish (or execution phase).

Corot in Italy by Peter Galas

Study of Corot art work and those students coming to Rome and painting what they saw in the Italian landscape (light, Roman ruins, landscape) and what they learned and how it was lost when they next turn to paint Academy required work.

Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting by John F Carslon

This is the best book I have read on landscape painting because it made me see a landscape with changed eyes.  One can skip the chapters on painting material (Chapter 2) and instead read and re-read on the rest (chapters dealing with design, perspective, color, trees, clouds, composition).

Monet in the 20th century

Read this wonderful description of Monet painting the large Water Lilies now in the Orangeries.  The long article by Paul Hayes Tucker gives both an historical account as well as analysis of the paintings (and the techniques used).   Tucker goes inside the paintings and describes their rhythm and design.  One senses the painter painting his work.  The reproductions are wonderful -- with many double page fold outs.  

Monet: Life and Art by Paul Hayes Tucker

Excellent biography plus analysis of the paintings of Monet.  There are many reproductions as well from various sources (including private collections).  The analysis of the paintings enlightens the techniques and structures of the paintings.  The chapters are divided by decades that map to changes in his work and interests.  The biography is really focused on his art.  

Man with a Blue Scarf by Martyn Gayford

Wonderful description of the artistic process (with stumbles, insights, success, doubts, failures) when creating a painting.   It captures how painting just doesn't flow easily  but is the result of hard work.  The sitter has equally good insights into his own attitude as a sitter and that of Lucian Freud as he creates the portrait. 

Art of Thomas Gainsborough by Michael Rosenthal

Excellent study (with fine illustrations) to how Gainsborough painted (sharp eyed portraits of society people and their clothes) and the rivalry with Joshua Reynolds (who focused on Classical motives to elevate Art to equal Literature) and the founding of the RA.  

Alla Prima II by Richard Schmid

A full description step by step of painting with the detailed eye and life experiences and insights of a real master painter.  It has many wonderful illustrations of his art work.  He paints in the style of John Singer Sargent.  It is a delight to see his fine art used to demonstrate how to paint (especially compared to other instruction books where illustrations are much less inspiring).   He has many recommendations (how to start, pallet of colors, brushes, etc). 

Turner in his Time by Andrew Wilton

Excellent overview of Turner's life work and how he was perceived in his day and what he wrote himself about his art.  Many excellent illustrations that present a working artist making a living as an artist (looking for subjects that will sell and ways to sell his images to the large public).  Turner was not a clear writer with turgid prose style so reading his own words is not easy but does him us a flavor of the artist himself.

Turner by James Hamilton

A complement to the work by Andrew Wilton by explaining the motivations and activities of Turner throughout his life.  There are few illustrations but most of Turner's work is available on the Internet if you search for the image.  I read this with an iPad next to me to look up the paintings that are discussed throughout the book.

Lessons in Classical Drawing by Juliette Aristides

Detailed step by step guide to Salon drawing style and techniques.   It is very disciplined and gave me solid foundation for charcoal drawing.  It re-assured me about methods I was using intuitively and encouraged me to develop further (eg. use hard charcoal, draw lightly at first, measure, capture gradations in hue precisely).  Excellent foundation for painting.   I found this book the best of her Atelier books on classical painting and drawing.

Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green by Michael Wilcox

Excellent introduction to color and paint quality (from acrylic to oil to watercolor).  It explains the difference between opaque and transparent colors.  It removes the mystery of names given by manufacturers focusing instead on the industry standard labels.  Recommends a basic pallet of 6 colors and a secondary set of another 6 colors.  Describes how to mix all different colors and create color charts.  Plenty of examples.  Wilcox books were recommended by Richard Schmid in his book Alla Prima II.