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Quotations about Art



And so, every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. ~Henry Ward Beecher


To encourage Literature & the Arts, is a duty which every good Citizen owes to his Country... ~George Washington, 1784


Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization. ~Lincoln Steffens, as quoted in Forbes, 1944


An artist cannot talk about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture. ~Jean Cocteau, 1955


Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable. ~Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch, 1921


Art and composition tolerate no conventional fetters: mind and soul soar above them. ~Joseph Haydn, 1779


Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp


The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. ~William Faulkner, interview with Jean Stein, Paris Review, 1956


Art, true art, is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in. Great emotion always tends to become rhythmic, and out of that tendency the forms of art have been evolved. Art becomes artificial only when the forms take precedence over the emotion. ~Amy Lowell, "Edwin Arlington Robinson," 1917


To steal a moment from the sublime
And store it out of the reach of time
Is given perhaps to angels and saints
And lowly dabblers in pencils and paints.
~Robert Brault, Thoughts on Art & Artists, 2019, rbrault.blogspot.com


Why should you think that beauty, which is the most precious thing in the world, lies like a stone on the beach for the careless passer-by to pick up idly? Beauty is something wonderful and strange that the artist fashions out of the chaos of the world in the torment of his soul. And when he has made it, it is not given to all to know. To recognize it you must repeat the adventure of the artist. It is a melody that sings to you, and to hear it again in your own heart you want knowledge and sensitiveness and imagination. ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919 (Chapter XIX, spoken by the character Dirk Stroeve)


Why should you think that beauty is a stone on the beach, for any passerby to pick up? Beauty is something wonderful and strange, that the artist creates in torment, out of chaos. It isn't always easy to recognize at first. For that you must have knowledge, and sensitiveness, and imagination. ~W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) and Albert Lewin, The Moon and Sixpence (film adaptation of Maugham's novel), 1942


Art is man's challenge to time, his rebuke to chaos; the protest will survive neither the triumph of fire, nor the finality of ice — but it is better than the silence of consent. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer, lumpenbangenpiano.com


...Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art. ~Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying: A Dialogue," in The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review (London), January 1889 (Vivian)


Perfection in art, as often in life, is better captured by eraser than pencil. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Of course, they did something for me, these three monuments. They impressed me by their massiveness and design, and made me feel small in the right way, and to make us feel small in the right way is the chief function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way. ~E.M. Forster, "A Book that Influenced Me," 1944  [The "monuments" to which he refers are Dante's Divine Comedy, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and Tolstoy's War and Peace. —tg]


Life is to be learned as much from books and art as from life itself — almost more so, in my judgment. Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail. ~Theodore Dreiser, "Life, Art and America," 1917


We catch fugitive glimpses of beauty, and try to fix them forever in perfect form, — that is the task of art. We see thousands of disconnected facts, and try to arrange them in orderly sequence, — that is the task of science. We see the ongoing of eternal force, and seek some reason for it, — that is the task of philosophy. ~Samuel McChord Crothers, "The Mission of Humor," The Gentle Reader, 1903


...every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul. ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890


I now require this of all pictures, that they domesticate me, not that they dazzle me. Pictures must not be too picturesque. Nothing astonishes men so much as common-sense and plain dealing. All great actions have been simple, and all great pictures are. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Art"


Art holds fast when all else is lost. ~German proverb


Artistically considered, it reminds us of the main principle of art, the principle which is in most danger of being forgotten in our time. I mean the fact that art consists of limitation; the fact that art is limitation... The most artistic thing about the theatrical art is the fact that the spectator looks at the whole thing through a window... Has not every one noticed how sweet and startling any landscape looks when seen through an arch? This strong, square shape, this shutting off of everything else is not only an assistance to beauty; it is the essential of beauty. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame. ~G.K. Chesterton, "The Toy Theatre," Tremendous Trifles, 1909


Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer. ~Terri Guillemets


What art offers is space — a certain breathing room for the spirit. ~John Updike, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1984


There is something ghostly in all great art. ~Lafcadio Hearn (1850–1904)  [a.k.a. Koizumi Yakumo —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. ~Oscar Wilde


Once an airy fairy painter painted in the dawn and dew,
Painted in the sultry noontide, painted all the summer through:
Flowers and fields and wondrous woodlands, skies at sunrise and sunset—
And, as true as fairy stories, he is painting somewhere yet!
~"A Little Painter," Wide Awake, August 1885


The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. ~T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"


Make art, not war. ~Author unknown, c.1980s


Poetry is art with words and art is poetry without words. ~Quoted in the Moralia of Plutarch as an "oft-repeated saying"  [Loeb, 1927: "poetry is articulate painting, and painting is inarticulate poetry" —tg]


God and other artists are always a little obscure. ~Oscar Wilde


Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness. ~George Jean Nathan, The House of Satan, 1926


Only an artist with a part of God in him can see beauty in the commonplaces of life. The rest merely mark time until they die. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)


You know we poor artists have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to remind the public that we are not savages. ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890


Sometimes, to pursue a new idea, the artist must forfeit his deposit on an old idea. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Every child is an artist, with imagination and the artistic instinct. Life stamps these out... ~Percy Mackaye, 1915  [quoteinvestigator.com]


It is for every normal human being to be an artist. It is his divine heritage, every child is an artist. Human society kills it in us before we reach maturity. ~Dudley Crafts Watson, 1918  [quoteinvestigator.com]


[E]very child is an artist until he's told he's not an artist. ~John Lennon, 1969  [quoteinvestigator.com]


Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso, quoted in Time, 1976  [quoteinvestigator.com]


When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college — that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" ~Howard Ikemoto (1939–2020), as quoted in David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, 1993


One time I went to a museum where all the work in the museum had been done by children. They had all the paintings up on refrigerators. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985, stevenwright.com


Art is your personal diary where you may color your thoughts and emotions on a page. A person can see what you are feeling when you do art. ~Sara, 6th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life. ~Jean Paul (1763–1825)


[W]hat was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself, — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose? ~Willa Sibert Cather


Art is the right hand of Nature. The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men. ~Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)


To us, who live in the nineteenth century, any century is a suitable subject for art except our own. The only beautiful things are things that do not concern us. ~Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying: A Dialogue," in The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review (London), January 1889 (Vivian)


God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things. ~Pablo Picasso


Every artist's illimitable country is himself. ~E.E. Cummings, 1945


Art doesn't have to matter to a lot of people to matter a lot. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson


Let your imagination take you wherever you want to be. This piece of canvas truly is your world. ~Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting


Artistic truth is for me literally the highest truth: art may seize the essence of persons and movements no less truly, and certainly far more vitally, than a scientific generalization unifies a chaos of phenomena. Time and Space are only the conditions through which spiritual facts struggle. Hence I have here and there permitted myself liberties with these categories. ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "Preface," 1898


I'll dip my brush into the sunrise, and the sunset, and the rainbow. ~Rudolf Besier, The Barretts of Wimpole Street: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1930 (Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett)


Vice and virtue are to the artist materials of his art. ~Oscar Wilde, Preface to Dorian Gray, 1890


The soul of the artist is oppressed by the atmosphere of the counting-house. ~Franz von Dingelstedt, Die Amazone: Novelle, 1869, translated from German by J.M. Hart


We perceive, in fact, that the only matter upon which any worker, other than the artist, can congratulate himself, whether he be manual-worker, brain-worker, surgeon, judge, or politician, is that he is helping to make the world tolerable for the artist. It is only the artist who will leave anything behind him. He is the fighting-man, the man who counts; the others are merely the Army Service Corps of civilization. ~A.A. Milne, "The Case for the Artist," c.1919  ["By an 'artist' I mean Shakespeare and Me and Bach and Myself and Velasquez and Phidias, and even You if you have ever written four lines on the sunset in somebody's album, or modelled a Noah's Ark for your little boy in plasticine." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul. ~W. Somerset Maugham


Art is the colors and textures of your imagination. ~Meghan, 7th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


But Art is long, and their Time is short. ~Benjamin Franklin, "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania," 1749


Alas, Art is long, and Life short! ~Benjamin Franklin, 1778


Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "A Psalm of Life: What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist," Voices of the Night, 1839


Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life. ~John Lubbock


Reflexes and instincts are not pretty. It is their decoration that initiates art. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)


An art critic is someone who appreciates art, except for any particular piece of art. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


The first assumption of an art critic is that the artist meant to paint something else. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Picasso is not our greatest painter, but he is our greatest artist. He's the great satyr art figure. His whole life is a work of art. ~Leonard Baskin (1922–2000)


Anyone who's making their living from their creativity, you're so emotionally attached to the process that it really does just eat you up completely. ~Hannah Aitchison, LA Ink (season 1, episode 6, original airdate 2007 September 11th)


[S]ometimes, for an artist chronic pain can be a gift. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Diary, 2003


Art is a way to let your spirit run wild. It flows through the trees. Art is the breeze, the flowers and the clouds. ~Grace, 6th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say in any other way — things I had no words for. ~Georgia O'Keeffe


Painting is my escape from reality. I can literally create any kind of world that I want — with tranquility and peace. All my little animal friends, they all live right here with me. ~Bob Ross


The object of true art is to charm the imagintion... ~Henri Frédéric Amiel


I felt that these pictures had something to say to me that was very important for me to know, but I could not tell what it was.... They gave me an emotion that I could not analyse. They said something that words were powerless to utter. I fancy that Strickland saw vaguely some spiritual meaning in material things that was so strange that he could only suggest it with halting symbols. It was as though he found in the chaos of the universe a new pattern, and were attempting clumsily, with anguish of soul, to set it down. I saw a tormented spirit striving for the release of expression. ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919


Art is the beautiful way of doing things. ~Elbert Hubbard, "Mary Elizabeth"


Then FINE ART is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together. ~John Ruskin, "The Unity of Art," 1859


Pretty much everything inspires me, and it doesn't have to be art specifically, it can just be life — it can just be an experience you have walking down the street, and seeing an old man cross the street and how it makes you feel emotionally. Art is just very emotionally driven for me. I like any art that has soul. ~Kim Saigh, LA Ink, "Kat's Back But Where Is Hannah?" (original airdate 2008 January 8th)


Doing art... anything creative, is just a spiritual thing to do. I almost feel like every comic strip I do is sort of a little prayer. And I really feel like the only thing real is love. ~Patrick McDonnell, mutts.com, "Super Soul Short: Inside the Mind Behind Mutts," Super Soul Sunday (Oprah Winfrey Network), original airdate 2014 April 27th


Two little fairies skipped into a heart;
One was called Music, the other Art...
~John N. Pyke-Nott  [a little altered —tg]


I went to a museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985, stevenwright.com


The Difference 'twixt Art and Trade is plain:
Art strives for Excellence and Trade for Gain.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Excellence," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


I want to reach that condensation of sensations that constitutes a picture. ~Henri Matisse


The best way to learn about art is to attach yourself to an artist. You've got to be in his studio, in his guts, in his hair, bothering him all the time. ~Leonard Baskin (1922–2000)


An artist makes visual the rhythms and arrhythmias of the universe. ~Terri Guillemets


Art is a memory put into lines that will last forever. ~Andy, 7th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


What is abnormal in Life stands in normal relations to Art. It is the only thing in Life that stands in normal relations to Art. A subject that is beautiful in itself gives no suggestion to the artist. It lacks imperfection. The only thing that the artist cannot see is the obvious. ~Oscar Wilde


We don't make mistakes — we just have happy accidents every once in a while. ~Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting


They're just marks on a paper. ~Howard Ikemoto (1939–2020)  [said to new students who were self-conscious about artmaking —tg]


A painting is what you make of it, besides which, "Moon Weeping" has a better ring to it than "Paintbrush Dripping." ~Robert Brault, Thoughts on Art & Artists, 2019, rbrault.blogspot.com


Art is a shadow of what a person is thinking… a small glimpse of what they hold inside. Little secrets, regrets, joys… every line has its own meaning. ~Sarah, 7th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


[T]he message and duty of the competent artist, was to send light into the darkness of men's hearts. ~Robert Schumann  [of musicians —tg]


Art is a kind of illness. ~Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)


Sometimes for an artist the only difference between insanity and genius is success. ~Edward Allen Bernero, Criminal Minds, "True Night" (season 3, episode 10), original airdate 2007 November 28th, spoken by the character Dr. Spencer Reid


I do not think there are any two artists who agree on any one subject. ~F. Schuyler Mathews, "Comparative Colors and their Relation to Flowers," 1894


Art is like a flower. You start with a bud, then it starts to blossom and becomes a masterpiece. ~Eric, 7th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


Artists talk to themselves on canvas, mumbling scattered colors of emotion. ~Terri Guillemets


[T]hey may even be saying that the meat and marrow of art, the painterly core, the life of the pigment, and the world of technique with which hands lay on that pigment are convertible to something other. The ambiguity of meaning in the twentieth century, the hollow in the heart of faith, has become such an obsessional hole that art may have to be converted into intellectual transactions. It is as if we are looking for stuff, any stuff with which to stuff the hole, and will convert every value into packing for this purpose.... Something rabid is loose in the century. Maybe we are not converting art into some comprehension of social process but rather are using art to choke the hole, as if society has become so hopeless, which is to say so twisted in knots of faithless ideological spaghetti, that the glee is in strangling the victims. ~Norman Mailer, c.1974  ["A drawing from Willem de Kooning erased by Robert Rauschenberg" —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


There is in every artist's studio a scrap heap of discarded works in which the artist's discipline prevailed against his imagination. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


I am the canvas whereon may be painted
Shapes of strange beauty, — conceptions sublime, —
She a rare picture, — pure, beautiful, sainted,
Sketched by the Master, to live for all time.
~Florence Percy (Elizabeth Anne Chase Akers Allen, 1832–1911), "Two," Forest Buds, from the Woods of Maine, 1855


When painting, an artist must take care not to trap his soul in the canvas. ~Terri Guillemets


An artist must be careful not to throw his ideas out with the trash. ~Terri Guillemets


CUBIST  A picture produced by an explosion in a paint factory. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914


Picasso would give up cubism just to capture your curves. ~Konfal Blyther


If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been painted basic white with a roller. ~Rita Mae Brown


My inspiration is art... because without art, we would just be stuck with reality. ~Daniel R. Lynch


Behind unfinished art cries an unfinished artist. ~Terri Guillemets


Art is an adventure that never seems to end. ~Jason, 8th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


The artist gazes upon a reality and creates his own impression. The viewer gazes upon the impression and creates his own reality. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


...a bourgeois barrenness... depressingly alien from that dainty boudoir atmosphere of the artist-life she knew. ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897


His soul palpitating with love of art... ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919  [referring to Dirk Stroeve —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


A man and his art are like a fool and his king. ~Terri Guillemets


Art is art, even when unsuccessful. ~Danish proverb


[I]t was a hymn to the beauty of the human form... and the praise of Nature, sublime, indifferent, lovely, and cruel. ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, 1919


Why should I paint dead fish, onions and beer glasses? Girls are so much prettier. ~Marie Laurencin (1883–1956)


Art is the triumph over chaos. ~John Cheever, c.1960


If one looks closely enough, one can see angels in every piece of art. ~Terri Guillemets


Art is pictures straight from the heart. ~Ben, 7th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


A portrait has one advantage over its original: it is unconscious; and you may therefore admire without insulting it. I have seen portraits which have more. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


They tell you that the great painters mixed blood with their pigments. It is not true; the compound used was brains. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)


Picasso is an artist, dear. Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue. Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid. ~Jules Feiffer, Crawling Arnold, 1961


Art is never didactic, does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright by a sermon. ~Agnes Repplier


Soul colors the artist so that the artist can color the canvas. ~Terri Guillemets


Grandeur is composed of straight lines.
Genteelness and elegance of serpentine lines.
~Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), quoted by James Northcote, 1814


Architecture begins where engineering ends. ~Walter Gropius


Architecture should be dedicated to keeping the outside out and the inside in. ~Leonard Baskin (1922–2000)


Good architecture lets nature in. ~Mario Pei (1901–1978)


It is curious how a man can stamp his personality upon earthly things. ~Christopher Morley


Art is more than pictures and designs. It is everything around us. We are God's art. ~Chris, 6th grade, Los Cerros Middle School, Danville, California, posted by teacher Bunki Kramer to Getty ArtsEdNet, 1999


An artist's instinct is more refined than the typical mortal's. ~Terri Guillemets


Facts are not merely finding a footing in history, but they are usurping the domain of Fancy, and have invaded the kingdom of Romance. Their chilling touch is over everything. They are vulgarising mankind. The crude commercialism of America, its materialising spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high, unattainable ideals, are entirely due to that country having adopting for its national hero, a man, who according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie, and it is not too much to say that the story of George Washington and the cherry-tree has done more harm, and in a shorter space of time, than any other moral tale in the whole of literature. ~Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying: A Dialogue," in The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review (London), January 1889 (Vivian)





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