Good portrait painting books come along all too infrequently and something which takes the subject seriously and looks at it in such depth as this is to be welcomed. Suzanne Brooker examines every aspect of portrait painting, from style to facial features and expressions to composition and painting methods. There’s a great deal to read here, but there are also plenty of illustrations to leaven and punctuate it so that you’re never left struggling for comprehension. There is a also a generous series of demonstration paintings which are described in some detail. Although, as a result, they have fewer stage illustrations than has perhaps become the norm, they are, I think, more suited to the more technically advanced artist, the sort of person who is likely to be going into portraiture seriously. In any case, the whole book is anything but an introduction for the beginner and will appeal to (and should satisfy) the more demanding reader. It is a large and quite heavy tome that rewards extended study and is admirably comprehensive both in its coverage and its execution of that coverage.
If I have a reservation, it’s perhaps that the style of painting tends rather heavily towards the old-master that’s (admittedly) implied in the subtitle, but it is an American book and American portraiture can be rather like that. I still think you can learn a lot from it, though and I don’t think you’d feel your money was wasted. If that sounds like faint praise, it’s not meant to be.