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quotations about originality

Originality quote

I'll develop my own image. I'm an original man. A one and only. I just need some help.

SAM SHEPARD, The Tooth of Crime

The painter with an original vision is always opposed by the schools. That is, at first. But when he wins out, then the schools merely take over his technique and use it as a club to put down the next creator. And so it goes.


Originality is the best form of rebellion.

MIKE SASSO, Being Human

The truly original mind is forever finding new things in the old. The greatest quality of originality is that it perceives something that has been staring all the time into the unseeing eyes of mankind.

ANONYMOUS, The Linotype Bulletin, November/December 1921

Nearly all our originality comes from the stamp that the time impresses upon our sensibility.

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE, "The Painter of Modern Life"

A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought.


The very best kind of originality is that which comes after a sound apprenticeship: it is that which shall prove to be the blending of a firm conception of all useful precedent and the progressive tendencies of an able mind.

ANONYMOUS, Monotype, May/June 1917

A poor original is better than a good imitation.

ELLA WHEELER WILCOX, Men, Women and Emotions

It takes a courageous fool to say things that have not been said and to do things that have not been done.

CRISS JAMI, Venus in Arms

Originality is another criterion of aesthetic value. We may formulate an originality principle, according to which highly valuable works of art provide hitherto unavailable insights.... Notice that, although originality is a necessary condition of high aesthetic value, it is far from a sufficient condition. Many original works have little or no aesthetic value. An artwork may present a novel but uninteresting perspective, or one that is original but wrong.

JAMES O. YOUNG, Art & Knowledge

That which is original creates a new origin. That which is original, by definition, must stray off the previously worn paths. It must wander; it must err.


An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original.

JEAN COCTEAU, Le Rappel a l'Ordre

Originality is what distinguishes art from craft. It is the yardstick of artistic greatness.

HORST W. JANSON, History of Art: The Western Tradition

Perhaps our originality manifests itself most strikingly in what we do with that which we did not originate. To discover something wholly new can be a matter of chance, of idle tinkering, or even of the chronic dissatisfaction of the untalented.

ERIC HOFFER, Reflections on the Human Condition

All effort at originality must end either in the quaint or the monstrous. For no man knows himself as an original; he can only believe it on the report of others.

WASHINGTON ALLSTON, Lectures on Art and Poems

More than a rejection or dissolution of the past, avant-garde originality is conceived as a literal origin, a beginning from ground zero, a birth.

ROSALIND E. KRAUSS, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths

Give up on trying to be original. Every song has been sung, every picture has been painted, and every story has been told. The best one can do is sing, draw, or tell it again well.


What is the point of being on this Earth if you are going to be like everyone else?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story

Since Eden's freshness and man's fall, no rose has been original.


It is not permitted to a man, who takes up pen or chisel, to seek originality, for passion is his only business, and he cannot but mould or sing after a new fashion because no disaster is like another.

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS, "Anima Hominis", Per Amica Silentia Lunae

Originality is a swan. The moment you chase her, she turns into a goose. When you touch originality, it vanishes. It is one of those things that you have lost the moment you consciously seek for it. It flees before its own name like a ghost at cock-crow. It is an unhappy moment when we think: "Now I am doing something original," for in that moment we have missed it.

ANONYMOUS, The Linotype Bulletin, November/December 1921

I am madly in love with humans. Especially the strange ones. For it is ever so beautiful to be strange. To do things differently than others. To see things in a rare light. To me, that is such gold to carry.

CHRISTOPHER POINDEXTER, Remington Typewriter Poetry

Not like Homer would I write,
Not like Dante if I might,
Not like Shakespeare at his best,
Not like Goethe or the rest,
Like myself, however small,
Like myself, or not at all.


We come too late to say anything which has not been said already.

JEAN DE LA BRUYÈRE, "Of Works of the Mind", Les Caractères

Originality is independence, not rebellion; it is sincerity, not antagonism.

GEORGE HENRY LEWES, The Principles of Success in Literature

We are obliged to regard many of our original minds as crazy -- at least until we have become as clever as they are.


If you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it.


An original mind is rarely understood, until it has been reflected from some half-dozen congenial with it, so averse are men to admitting the true in an unusual form; whilst any novelty, however fantastic, however false, is greedily swallowed.

WASHINGTON ALLSTON, Lectures on Art and Poems

Read the anonymous essay: Chasing the Goose Originality

Read William Henry McMasters' essay: On Originality


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