The best books on Impressionism

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Impressionism and why they recommend each book.

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By Stephen Little,

Book cover of Isms: Understanding Art

For an art or art history newbie, all those “isms” can be really overwhelming: what is Cubism? What is Impressionism? What does Post-Impressionism mean, other than it came along after Impressionism? This is a readable book that will help casual viewers understand art without getting bogged down in the academic details. It’s art history and art appreciation mixed together, without pain or boredom!

Who am I?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 

I wrote...

ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

By Jennifer Dasal,

Book cover of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

What is my book about?

We’re all familiar with the works of Claude Monet, thanks to the ubiquitous reproductions of his water lilies on umbrellas, handbags, and. But did you also know that Monet and his cohort were trailblazing rebels whose works were originally deemed ugly and vulgar? Or how about the fact that one of Andy Warhol’s most enduring legacies involves Caroline Kennedy’s moldy birthday cake and a collection of toenail clippings?

ArtCurious is a colorful look at the world of art history, revealing some of the strangest, funniest, and most fascinating stories behind the world’s great artists and masterpieces, presenting an engaging look at why art history is, and continues to be, a riveting and relevant world to explore.

The Painting of Modern Life

By T.J. Clark,

Book cover of The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers

After the literature of Paris, the painting of Paris. T. J. Clark’s The Painting of Modern Life studies the ways in which the artists he calls “painters of modern life” created canvases that attempted to focus attention on a subsequent transformation of Paris, in the nineteenth century. Clark considers the depictions by painters such as Manet, Degas, and Seurat of Paris as it evolved and of Parisians interacting with their changing city. The depictions of Parisians experiencing the boulevards, cafés, and parks of Paris that Clark analyzes are perhaps the greatest tradition ever of city painting. No one has ever attempted such a study of the many paintings of Paris as it was transformed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. When they do so, Clark’s book can provide a model.

Who am I?

I’ve lived in cities all my adult life and currently divide my time between Paris and Philadelphia. And while those two cities are strikingly different places, they have in common the fact that they are both great walking cities –- urban centers that can be explored on foot and easily enjoyed by pedestrians. Walking cities, I believe, provide not only an ideal context for today’s tourists but also a model for a future in which urban dwellers become less reliant on automobiles and urban centers more open to foot traffic than to vehicular pollution and congestion. The books I’ll recommend deal in various ways with the building and rebuilding of visionary cities, and of Paris in particular.

I wrote...

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City

By Joan DeJean,

Book cover of How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City

What is my book about?

What makes a city great?

To answer this, I explored the decades in the seventeenth century when French kings put visionary architects in charge of one of the most spectacular projects in the history of urban planning. These architects reimagined such basic urban building blocks as the street and the bridge. They also invented new ones – the boulevard in particular. As a result, they redefined the urban experience for both Paris’s inhabitants and visitors alike. Paris became a new kind of city, a blueprint for great cities to come. I believe that great architects and great architecture are essential to the making of any great city. 

Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting

By John F. Carlson,

Book cover of Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting

John Carlson, himself a noted American Impressionist painter and teacher, addresses all the common elements faced by landscape painters, including design, light, perspective, color, clouds, trees, and composition. While the book was first published in 1929, Dover has reprinted the 1958 edition, so the language is a little more accessible to the modern reader without sacrificing Carlson's forthright style. Although the 58 diagrams are in black and white, the book's chief value is its practical principles and insights.

Who am I?

My name is James Gurney and I've been a professional illustrator for National Geographic and Scientific American for over 40 years. Although I went to art school, everything I know about drawing and painting comes from studying art instruction books, and from sketching directly from nature. I'm best known for writing and illustrating the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series, published in 32 countries and 18 languages. I designed 15 dinosaur stamps for USPS and a set of five dinosaur stamps for Australia Post. My originals have been shown in over 35 solo museum exhibitions. My book Color and Light has sold over 200k copies and was Amazon's #1 bestselling book on painting for over a year.

I wrote...

Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

By James Gurney,

Book cover of Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

What is my book about?

This book examines two of art's most essential principles. It bridges the gap between abstract theory and practical knowledge. Beginning with a survey of underappreciated masters who perfected the use of color and light, the book examines how light reveals form, the properties of color and pigments, and the wide variety of atmospheric effects. Gurney cuts through the confusing and contradictory dogma about color, testing it in the light of science and observation. 

Monet's Table

By Claire Joyes,

Book cover of Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet

A famous painter’s cookbook? If you didn’t think artists eat, think again, and start by Googling images of Monet’s kitchen at his house in Giverny. (I said eat, not cook.) Written by the wife of Madame Monet’s great-grandson, this book offers you beautiful photographs of this artwork along with diary accounts of his family life and an opportunity to understand one of the great Impressionist artists through the dishes that his wife and family prepared, including his favorite, richly green-hued pistachio cake. 

Who am I?

I am an author, film composer, guitarist, multimedia artist, and perfumer. As a music journalist, I’ve written extensively for many major U.S. and international guitar publications before launching the website, The Guitar. My music has been featured on National Public Radio and worldwide at major U.S. and international art and design museum festivals. Part of being a writer is about expressing one’s curiosity through constant delving and engaging in the ongoing process of discovery. What compels me is the attempt to understand the inspiration that drives an artist to create a distinctively beautiful melody, fragrance, or artwork—one that grabs your attention with a mesmerizing, transfixing, and soulful quality. 

I wrote...

My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians

By Julia Crowe,

Book cover of My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians

What is my book about?

My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords features interviews with over 70 of the world’s most well-known guitarists from different musical genres (rock, classical, flamenco, jazz, blues, country) about how they obtained their start as a professional musician. In each interview, the artist tells their own indelible story in their own words about their early recollections of obtaining their instruments and performing, along with early foibles and hard-won triumphs. Woven in between is the author’s own story of how she came to collect the interviews. 

Selected Stories

By Anton Pavlovich Chekhov,

Book cover of Selected Stories

Chekhov is a master storyteller who conveys important insights into human nature with remarkable parsimony. Chekhov also provides contemporary readers with a certain detachment as he wrote in the nineteenth century and in Russia. Ancient Greek playwrights understood that distant settings provided analytical clarity to contemporary problems and also made people understand their universal nature. Chekhov also serves these aims.

Who am I?

My childhood, very much shaped by World War II, led me the study of international relations and political psychology. I have written numerous books on conflict management and prevention, and also on ancient Greek thinkers and writers, and the elusive nature of knowledge. In recent years I have begun to explore these themes in fiction. This shift has been exhilarating and liberating and provides me the opportunity to present the tragic understanding of life and politics to a larger audience.

I wrote...

Rough Waters and Other Stories: Facing Ethical Dilemmas

By Richard Ned Lebow,

Book cover of Rough Waters and Other Stories: Facing Ethical Dilemmas

What is my book about?

Rough Waters is a collection of short stories about people and political leaders facing ethical choices. These choices arise in extraordinary situations but also in everyday life. Collectively my stories make the case for a tragic approach to ethics. 

A Ball for Daisy

By Chris Raschka,

Book cover of A Ball for Daisy

Meet Daisy, a bouncy puppy with a favorite red ball. One day, while playing in the park, a bigger dog bites on it and –puff! Her ball completely deflates. Daisy is crushed!  She returns home and buries herself on the sofa, totally downcast. Told in wordless panels, Daisy’s feelings are deeply felt and understood. The illustrations are amazingly expressive and perfectly capture the character’s emotional journey from playfulness to sadness. On a return visit to the park, can Daisy find a way to joy again?

Who am I?

I am a librarian and a picture book author/illustrator – it’s a perfect combination as I get to spend lots of time around books. I’m also a huge animal lover, with a special fondness for dogs. I can’t resist a picture book about dogs, and it’s no surprise that my first picture book was based on a true story about one very brave little dog. It is not easy to recommend only 5 books, but these are certainly my top favorites both in text and art. Happy reading!

I wrote...

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic

By Mônica Carnesi,

Book cover of Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic

What is my book about?

On a cold winter day, a curious dog wandered onto a frozen river, and before he knew it he was traveling fast on a sheet of ice. Many people tried to help, but the dog could not be reached. Finally, after two nights and seventy-five miles, the little dog was saved by a ship out in the Baltic Sea.

The gallant rescue of the little dog nicknamed Baltic made international news. Mônica Carnesi's simple text and charming watercolor illustrations convey all the drama of Baltic's journey. His story, with its happy ending, will warm readers' hearts. An author's note and map are included.

I'll Be Watching

By Pamela Porter,

Book cover of I'll Be Watching

I’ll Be Watching is a verse novel that evokes place and character in tight, specific moments. It’s a page-turner that tells a harrowing story of children in 1941 surviving on their own through the brutal winter in a small Prairie town. Nuanced and impressionistic, moments are layered to create a world of childhood without a supportive adult net. I love the restraint and the specificity of Porter’s writing. She has focussed on childhood, during the war, in a very ordinary, very unlikely location and written a thriller.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, theatre artist and calligrapher who has spent a lifetime dedicated to the look, sound, texture and meaning of words. Writing in verse and prose poetry gives me a powerful tool to explore hard themes. Poetry is economical. It makes difficult subjects personal. Through poetry, I can explore painful choices intimately and emerge on a different path at a new phase of the journey. While my semi-autobiographical novel These Are Not the Words “is about” mental health and drug addiction, I’ve shown this through layers of images, sounds, textures, tastes—through shards of memories long submerged, recovered through writing, then structured and fictionalized through poetry.

I wrote...

These Are Not the Words

By Amanda West Lewis,

Book cover of These Are Not the Words

What is my book about?

These Are Not the Words takes place in New York City in 1963. It is a semi-autobiographical novel, set in the rhythms of the jazz, beat poets, and the 60s visual arts world.

Twelve-year-old Missy lives the most exciting city in the world. She goes to a great school where she learns about poetry, music, and plays. Missy’s father starts taking her on secret midnight excursions to Harlem and the Village so she can share his love of jazz. But things start to spiral out of control. Missy and her father write poems for each other that become an exchange of apologies as his alcohol and drug addiction begin to take over their lives. It’s a raw journey from innocence to action, and finally acceptance.

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