Portrait of Wife Reading, by Carolus Duran (John Singer Sargent's teacher)

Portrait of Wife Reading, by Carolus Duran (John Singer Sargent’s teacher). Note the incredible loose brushwork and amazing reflected blues and golds on her silk gown!

I reference a number of books that might be of help to artists interested in the techniques of oil painting in the late 19th and early 20th century in my updated edition of Painting A Portrait. For convenience, I’m listing them here as well along with links to the free version where possible or to Amazon where you can purchase them.

I also throw in a few oil painting books of the era that are worthwhile but I didn’t have the opportunity to mention in the text. After 1935, art moved in another direction and lot of the techniques changed, so older books are better for recovering older techniques. Books earlier than about 1870, show the thinking / techniques the fed into the Sargent – de László era.

If you really want to test your artistic knowledge, read Dorothy Sayers’ 1931 murder mystery Five Red Herrings. It takes place in an art colony and all the suspects are artists. If you don’t spot what’s missing from the crime scene in Chapter II . . . you are not the artist you think you are!

Books about de László, his life and his work:

  1. A Brush with Grandeur, Sandra de László (Paul Holberton Publishing, April 2010)
  2. Philip de László: His Life and Art, by Duff Hart-Davis, Caroline Corbeau-Parsons (Yale Univ. Press, May 2010)
  3. Portrait of a Painter: The authorized life of Philip de László, Owen Rutter (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1939)
  4. The Paintings of P. A. de László, Derrick Clifford (London, 1969)

Books about Sargent

  1. John Singer Sargent, the Hon. Evan Charteris, K.C. (Scribner, 1927)
  2. Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X, Deborah Davis (Tarcher, 2004)

Books on art techniques

  1. Charles Bargue Drawing Course, Charles Bargue and Jean-Leon Gerome, (France, 1863) with text by Gerald Ackerman (ACR Ed., 2011) Also see my site:
  2. 1500 Color Mixing Recipes, William F. Powell (Walter Foster, 2012)
  3. The Art of Painting Portraits, John Cawse, (1840)
  4. The Art of Portrait Painting, Henry Murray (1851)
  5. Practical Directions for Portrait Painting in Water-colours, Mary Philadelphia (1851)
  6. Hints to Young Painters and the Process of Portrait Painting, Thomas Sully (1873)
  7. Oil Painting: A Handbook for the Use of Students, Frank Fowler  (1885)
  8. A Manual of Oil Painting, John Collier (1887)
  9. Portrait and Figure Painting, Frank Fowler (1894)
  10. The Painter in Oil, Daniel B. Parkhurst (1897)
  11. The Art of Portrait Painting, John Collier (1905)
  12. Portraits and Portrait Painting, Estelle M. Hurll (1907)
  13. The Practice of Oil Painting and Drawing, Solomon J. Solomon (Lippincott, 1910)

Books that might also be helpful to you

  1. The Technique of Oil Painting, Hamilton Easter Field (1913)
  2. Oil Painting Techniques and Materials, Harold Speed (1924)
  3. The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head, William L. Maughan (Watson-Guptil Pub., 2004)
  4. Drawing the Head and Hands, Andrew Loomis (1956) (Titan Books, 2011)
  5. Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, Andrew Loomis (1943) (Titan Books, 2011)
  6. Inspiring Impressionism: The Impressionists and the Art of the Past, ed. Ann Dumas (Yale Uni. Press, 2007)

There are many other great books out there and I encourage you to seek out and read everything you can, because you never know where you’ll pick up some helpful technique!


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