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Those who live are those who fight.
Victor Hugo
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"Beauty is at once the ultimate principle and the highest aim of art." - Goethe

Art is commonly understood to be skill used to produce an aesthetic result (Hatcher, 1999). Artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind, from early pre-historic art to contemporary art.


  • "Buy old masters. They fetch a better price than old mistresses."
  • "Light is impressionism."
    • Aulenti, Gae, On positioning galleries for impressionist and post impressionist paintings at the top of her design for Paris's Musée d'Orsay, Time (8 December 1986)
  • "This museum is a torpedo moving through time, its head the ever-advancing present, its tail the ever-receding past of 50 to 100 years ago."
  • "Art is made by the alone for the alone."
  • "Pop art is the inedible raised to the unspeakable."
  • "Any great work of art ... revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world—the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air."
  • "Art is the triumph over chaos."
  • "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse."
  • "I do a bale of sketches, one eye, a piece of hair. A pound of observation, then an ounce of painting."
    • Cox, Gardner on his portraits, Washington Post (31 May 1975)
  • "Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad."
Also variously attributed to Philip Massinger, who is instead the subject, and to Lionel Trilling (Esquire, September 1962), who is quoting Eliot, and in the form
  • Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
to Pablo Picasso
  • "I've always thought that art is a lie, an interesting lie. And I'll sort of listen to the "lie" and try to imagine the world which makes that lie true... what that world must be like, and what would have to happen for us to get from this world to that one."
  • "All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography."
  • if the subject of art
    will be a broken jug
    a small broken soul
    with a great self-pity
    what will remain of us
    will be like tears of lovers
    in a small dirty hotel
    when wallpapers dawn
  • "While I know that the beautiful, the spiritual and the sublime are today suspect I have begun to stop resisting the constant urge to deny that beauty has a valid right to exist in contemporary art."
  • "My idea of a perfect surrealist painting is one in which every detail is perfectly realistic, yet filled with a surrealistic, dreamlike mood. And the viewer himself can't understand why that mood exists, because there are no dripping watches or grotesque shapes as reference points. That is what I'm after: that mood which is apart from everyday life, the type of mood that one experiences at very special moments."
  • "Whores are the most honest girls. They present the bill right away."
  • "The studio, a room to which the artist consigns himself for life, is naturally important, not only as workplace, but as a source of inspiration. And it usually manages, one way or another, to turn up in his product."
  • "Beauty is at once the ultimate principle and the highest aim of art."
  • "The name of Leonardo da Vinci will be invoked by artists to prove that only a great artist can be a great technician. The name of Leonardo da Vinci will be invoked by technicians to prove that only a great technician can be a great artist."
  • "[It] is that rare impressionist painting where people don't judge the light, but rather are judged by it."
    • Johnson, Alexandra, On Terrace at Sainte-Adresse by Claude Monet, Christian Science Monitor (1 October 1980)
  • "Three men riding on a bicycle which has only one wheel, I guess that's surrealist."
    • Kingman, Dong in Twenty-two Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work (1964)
  • "Most artists are surrealists. ... always dreaming something and then they paint it."
    • Kingman, Dong in Twenty-two Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work (1964)
  • "All art is solitary and the studio is a torture area."
  • "The Art Snob can be recognized in the home by the quick look he gives the pictures on your walls, quick but penetrating, as though he were undressing them. This is followed either by complete and pained silence or a comment such as 'That's really a very pleasant little water color you have there.'"
  • "The Art Snob will stand back from a picture at some distance, his head cocked slightly to one side. ... After a long period of gazing (during which he may occasionally squint his eyes), he will approach to within a few inches of the picture and examine the brushwork; he will then return to his former distant position, give the picture another glance and walk away."
  • "If you seek just a little truth, as most, you should not ignore abstract forms, the basis from which all short-lived experiences we call reality springs."
  • "Can someone eat the fruit that comes from the tree of action that grows from the seeds of your mind?."
  • "The bird of truth would not be able to fly if it weren't for the air of lies we breathe."
  • "Impressionism is the newspaper of the soul."
  • "It is only after years of preparation that the young [artist] should touch color—not color used descriptively, that is, but as a means of personal expression."
  • "Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence."
  • "My job is to make art expensive."
  • "[Discipline in art is] a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing."
  • "Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask."
  • "Many are willing to suffer for their art. Few are willing to learn to draw."
  • "He searched disorder for its unifying principle."
    • O'Doherty, Brian, On Stuart Davis, abstractionist whose work prefigured pop art, The New York Times (26 June 1964)
  • "Art is a bang/blast."
  • "Art has two constant, two unending concerns: It always meditates on death and thus always creates life. All great, genuine art resembles and continues the Revelation of St John."
    • Pasternak, Boris, Doctor Zhivago, translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari (Pantheon 1958)
  • "For a long time I limited myself to one color—as a form of discipline."
  • "Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you."
  • "Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures."
  • "Art means to dare—and to have been right."
  • "Art is what is irresistible."
    • Saroyan, William, as quoted by William Bolcolm in "The End of the Mannerist Century" (2004), The Pleasure of Modernist Music, Ashby, Arved, ed. ISBN 1580461433
  • "The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited."
    • Saroyan, William Recalled at his Broadway memorial service, The New York Times (31 Oct 83)
  • "It holds up in one object or one surface, in one bright, luminous and concentrated thing—whether a beer can or a flag—all the dispersed elements that go to make up our lives."
    • Scull, Robert C. on his collection of pop and minimal art, Time (21 February 1964)
  • "I'd rather use art to climb than anything else."
    • Scull, Robert C. when asked if his purchases were for investment or social climbing, recalled on his death (1 January 86)
  • "After a few months in my parents' basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations."
  • "Dead artists always bring out an older, richer crowd."
    • Shaw, Elizabeth, on a fauvism exhibition that drew 2,000 people, The New York Times (26 March 1976)
  • "Art is the signature of civilizations."
  • "[It was] like the wild child who belongs in a delinquent home."
    • Sims, Lowery, on status of modern art collection before $26-million, 110,000-ft² addition to the museum, Manhattan Inc. (August 1986)
  • "There is no pulse so sure of the state of a nation as its characteristic art product which has nothing to do with its material life."
  • "Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one consciously, by means of certain external symbols, conveys to others the feelings one has experienced, whereby people so infected by these feelings, also experience them."
  • "In order to correctly define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and consider it as one of the conditions of human life. ...Reflecting on it in this way, we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of effective communication between people."
  • "The very object of an art, the principle of its artifice, is precisely to impart the impression of an ideal state in which the man who reaches it will be capable of spontaneously producing, with no effort of hesitation, a magnificent and wonderfully ordered expression of his nature and our destinies."
    • Valery, Paul - Remarks on Poetry in The Art of Poetry, Vintage, 1958, p. 215.
  • "I don't really have studios. I wander around—around people's attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me."
  • "In short, if newspapers were written by people whose sole object in writing was to tell the truth about politics and the truth about art we should not believe in war, and we should believe in art."
  • "Art is marks on canvas trying to find a place to live."
  • "A painting's appearance doesn't give you its definition, but its frame"
    • "Dead Painting"


  • "if you don't like LEGO, you don't like yourself."
    • Jonathan P Kennaugh as Wes Mantooth
  • "Architecture is the art of wasting space."
    • Anonymous
  • "Art is what poetry can't describe; Poetry is what art can't picture."
    • Anonymous
  • "As an artist, English is my second language."
    • Anonymous
  • "Beauty destroys itself with pride,mediocrity raises itself with humility"
    • Anonymous
  • "Ineptitude has today, it seems, acquired full rights of citizenship in the realm of art."
  • "I had recourse to a dictionary of synonyms, and there I found "deformed" in the company with such terms as "ugly, foul, loathsome, obscene," and read moreover that "to deform is to make something ugly in form."
  • "The emotional states which a painter or other artist feels irresistibly forced to express are those most intimate states of mind and soul from which may be struck the spark or revelation, kindling a light that shows things in their deepest, most universal, and perhaps even eternal reality; this light we may call the light of poetry."
  • "Abstraction is an exercise in a pre-assured failure. It is a futile attempt to communicate the non-communicable"
  • "If you want to know what true art is: Go outside on a clear night, wait until it gets very, very dark, then look up! You will see no rules of composition, no evidence of superior technique. Yet, you will be staring into the very face of pure, unadulterated beauty and wonder. That is the unattainable Ideal for which I must constantly strive."
  • "It is not about which artist is more skilled than which other artist. It is about creating what is in you to create. A lack of confidence in oneself is like a thief, It steals from the world that which might be worthy."
  • "No matter how much utter disdain I have for the work of a particular artist, I would still rather that he had created those works than hadn't"
  • "No matter how substandard you feel your skill or talent may be, If you never produce your art, the world will always remain deprived of it."
  • "The entire 'my art is better than your art' thing really gets under my skin. The fact of the matter is: Your art IS better than my art... at being what it is. So what? It just so happens that my art is better than your art, at being what it is."
  • "When the established members of academia start becoming vocal as to how poor your art is, then you know you're on to something."
  • "All colours are the friends of their neighbours and the lovers of their opposites."
  • "Art produces ugly things which frequently become beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always becomes ugly with time."
  • "There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall."
  • "The whole beauty and grandeur of Art consists ... in being able to get above all singular forms, particularities of every kind [by making out] an abstract idea ... more perfect than any one original."
  • "Great authors should be read, and not met."
  • "Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world."
  • "artists' imagination is bound to simplicity and as a rule is in conflict with common sense."
  • "Most Christians' view of evangelism are along the same lines of the pro da campaigns of Nazi Germany. They have this 'us against them' concept, and they destroy art. They want to make films and music that make their philosophical position look good, which is not the same as art."
  • "Art must anchor in nature, or it is the sport of every breath of folly."
  • "Art has got nothing to do with taste."
  • Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
  • There is no abstract art. You must always start with something.
  • "The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."
  • "Whats the difference between art and pornography... a government grant!"
  • "I paint self portraits because I am the person I know best."
  • "Art does not reproduce the visible; it makes things visible."
  • "Art should be more then just brush stokes on canvas showing a precise and literal duplication of an event. Art is for more then that. True art captures emotions, feelings and the energy of the object or event that is being depicted. It goes far deeper then the cold, flat surface of duplication."
  • "Creativity is the subtle theft of another's ideas."
  • "A community without artists is not a true community, only people living in the same vicinity."
  • "The perfection of art is to conceal art."
  • "The philosopher sought only to discover, the artist to perfect"
  • "[The object of art is] to make eternal the desperately fleeting moment."
  • "We can forgive a man for making a useful thing, as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless."
  • "The function of all art ... is an extension of the function of the visual brain, to acquire knowledge; ...artists are, in a sense, neurologists who study the capacities of the visual brain with techniques that are unique to them."
  • An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it.

See also


Look up art in Wiktionary, the free dictionary