I recently finished reading a book entitled, "Lives of the Artists (Volume I)" by Giorgio Vasari - a collection of biographies of Italian Renaissance artists. The particular version I read was published by Penguin Group 1965. Vasari was an Italian Renaissance painter and architect who achieved success in his own time and was a friend and contemporary of many of the most celebrated Renaissance artists. Despite his talents in these fields, Vasari is most well known for this collection of Italian Renaissance biographies, and the book is considered one of the most important contemporary primary sources of the Renaissance.
Vasari was the first to outline the progression and influential theory of Renaissance art from the years 1200 through 1600. In the book, Vasari discusses twenty artists, though my favorite chapters are on the artists Giotto, Brunelleschi, Raphael and Michelangelo. In each of the chapters, Vasari lists the work that the artist did, who it was for, where it is located, as well as the background and history of the artist and their family. In the chapters on more prominent artists, Vasari goes into further detail on their lives. In these chapters, he provides anecdotes and glimpses into the artist's personality, which were some of my favorite sections of the book.
"Lives of the Artists" is an invaluable classic to add to your collection if you are interested in art history.