quotations about art
Art is not a copy of the real world; one of the damn things is enough.
VIRGINIA WOOLF, attributed, Languages of Art
Artists recognize other artists as soon as the pencil begins to move.
DAN SIMMONS, The Rise of Endymion
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures.
HENRY WARD BEECHER, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit
Art functions pyramidally: all new achievements are based on the utilization of everything that has been accumulated below, at the foundations of the pyramid. Revolutions do not occur here; this field, more than any other, is governed by evolution. And we must know what has been done before us in the field of verbal art. This does not mean that you must follow in trodden paths: you must contribute something of your own. A work of art is of value only when it is original, both in content and in form. But in order to leap upward, it is necessary to take off from the ground. It is essential that there be a ground.
YEVGENY ZAMYATIN, The Psychology of Creative Work
An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.
JEAN COCTEAU, Newsweek, May 16, 1955
Art -- the one achievement of man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised.
JAMES THURBER, Collecting Himself
Nature is a haunted house -- but Art -- a House that tries to be haunted.
EMILY DICKINSON, letter to T. W. Higginson, 1876
I believe art is utterly important. It is one of the things that could save us. We don't have to rely totally on experience if we can do things in our imagination.... It's the only way in which you can live more lives than your own. You can escape your own time, your own sensibility, your own narrowness of vision.
MARY OLIVER, The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 9, 1992
Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.
RAINER MARIA RILKE, letter, Feb. 17, 1903, Letters to a Young Poet
An artist who dedicates his life to art, burdens his art with his life, and his life with his art.
AD REINHARDT, "Twelve Rules for a New Academy", Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings
A craftsman knows in advance what the finished result will be, while the artist knows only what it will be when he has finished it.
W. H. AUDEN, "A Poet of the Actual", Forewords and Afterwords
We live in a world full of urgent problems: climate change, terrorism and poverty, to name but three. We won't resolve them with brawn; they are obstacles we can only overcome by using our brains--when we are thinking like artists and not behaving like animals.
WILL GOMPERTZ, Think Like an Artist: and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life
It's hard to believe that this long ago we--meaning Cro-Magnon modern humans--were the ones who invented art. Not every cave has gorgeous art, but the ones that do are spectacular. They utilize the bumps and the dips in the cave walls; it's not a flat surface like a painting. When you turn off the flashlight and strike a match instead, in that flickering light the shadows of these dips in the cave walls kind of move, and it almost makes you feel like those animals are alive. It's pretty spectacular.
JEAN M. AUEL, interview, goodreads, April 2011
Art ... is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.
STEPHEN SONDHEIM, interview, July 5, 2005
A copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned things is ample.
REBECCA WEST, The Strange Necessity
Whether it is the beautiful that brings to our hearts the love of truth and justice, or whether it is truth that teaches us how to find the beautiful in nature and how to love it, in either case art does a noble work. It drags out the soul from its everyday shell, and brings it under the spell of its own mysterious and wonderful power, so that a memory of this experience stays with the people, sustains them in their daily labors, and refines their minds.
HELENA MODJESKA, "Women and the Stage", The World's Congress of Representative Women
Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.
WINSTON CHURCHILL, speech to Royal Academy of Art, 1953
Every work of art is an uncommitted crime.
THEODOR WIESENGRUND ADORNO, Minima Moralia
All art is political in the sense that it serves someone's politics.
AUGUST WILSON, The Paris Review, Winter 1999
If they who understand the utmost refinement of any art will enjoy the perfection of it in a manner superior to other men, will they not amply pay for that advantage in feeling more than other men the imperfection of it, which in the natural course of things must so much oftener fall in their way?
FULKE GREVILLE, Maxims, Characters, and Reflections