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The work of art … is an instrument for tilling the human psyche, that it may continue to yield a harvest of vital beauty. ~ Herbert Read
The great artists are the ones who dare to entitle to beauty things so natural that when they’re seen afterward, people say: Why did I never realize before that this too was beautiful? ~ André Gide
Wherever rights are denied the poor, the prophetic anger is turned not merely against the incumbent rulers but equally against the means society employs to gloss over its own mendacity. And foremost among these means is art. Catering to luxury and emphasizing only the beautiful, art denies the fact that wretchedness and destitution have a tight grip on the poor. This is the reason why the prophetic zeal turned against art. ~ Hermann Cohen
Art constitutes a minor free zone outside action, paying for its freedom by giving up the real world. A heavy price! ~ Georges Bataille

Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to intellect, sense or emotion. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music and literature. The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics.

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  • When you have a cause, the best way to express yourself is artistically.
  • The coming extinction of art is prefigured in the increasing impossibility of representing historical events.
    • Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1951), as translated by E. Jephcott (1974), § 94, p. 143
  • Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.
    • Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1951), as translated by E. Jephcott (1974), § 143, p. 222.
  • I have this very what you call today "square" idea that art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.
    • Anni Albers Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists by Phaidon (2016) 25
  • Technique without art is shallow and doomed. Art without technique is insulting.
    • Dorothy Alexander, in her Christmas message to her dance students, 1939. Quoted in Hering, Doris (March 1987). "Obituaries: Dorothy Alexander, 1904-1986". Dance Magazine: 98-100.
  • I make art because it centers me in my body, and by doing so I hope to offer that experience to someone else.
    • Janine Antoni Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists by Phaidon (2016)


Art is made by the alone for the alone. ~ Luis Barragán
Degrade first the arts if you'd mankind degrade. ~ William Blake
All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. ~ Jorge Luis Borges
  • Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.
    • James Baldwin "An interview with James Baldwin" (1961), in Conversations with James Baldwin, p. 21
  • One writes out of one thing only — one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.
    • James Baldwin "Autobiographical Notes" (1952); republished in Notes of a Native Son (1955)
  • Art is made by the alone for the alone.
    • Luis Barragán, Time (12 May 1980) Originally in Cyril Connolly's "The Unquiet Grave" (1944), cited by Emilio Ambasz in "The Architecture of Luis Barragán" (1976).
  • Scientific pictures are often not just about science. They may... have an undeniable aesthetic quality. They may even have been primarily works of art that possess a scientific message.
    • John D. Barrow, Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science (2008)
  • Art constitutes a minor free zone outside action, paying for its freedom by giving up the real world. A heavy price!
  • Importantly, in Europe the question of art has been inscribed into religious pictures since the Renaissance. Here the rise of art marked a turning point in the history of images which is foundational for art history. Pictures not only carried the names of artists, but displayed their personal views on religion. The practice of art began without a fixed concept of art. But it developed specific evidence that distinguishes works of art. The notion of art emerged in the heart of the religious picture, with the themes still remaining the same. In an evolving market, personal artistic style became a brand in its own right. In the French writings of the time, “art” is introduced with the term “science”, while “art” refers to craft. The concept of Poesia, used much later by Titian when referring to his own pictures with mythological subjects, had hitherto been the privilege of poets. Giovanni Bellini defended the “bella fantasia” against the expectations of his patrons, thereby initiating the era of art collections.
  • Henry Letham: Bad art is more tragically beautiful than good art, because it documents human failure.
  • Thus Orpheus, arguably the most prevalent symbol for Art in the Western world, shows us both the power and limitations of the whole venture. Yes, it might feel like you’re conquering death when you play that song, paint that picture, compose that poem, or type that story. Yes, you might experience the sensation of escaping the everyday world, perhaps even your own mortality, upon hearing, watching, and reading the best artistic examples. But the feeling is illusory, Orpheus tells us.
    The feeling is, after all, just a feeling.
    • Kate Bernheimer, Introduction in Kate Bernheimer (ed.), xo Orpheus (2013), p. xxi
  • 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.
  • There abides in nature a certain form of matter which, being discovered and brought by art to perfection, converts to itself, proportionally, all imperfect bodies that it touches. ...It rested on the indisputable appearance of an indefinite cycle of transformations, reproducing themselves in chemical operations, without either beginning or end.
  • No work of art is worth the bones of a Pomeranian Grenadier.
  • Degrade first the arts if you'd mankind degrade,
    Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade.
    • William Blake, Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds's Discourses, title page (c. 1798–1809).
  • A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
    • Jorge Luis Borges, Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems : Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983 (1984).
  • Art...has always been a polite form of terrorism.
  • It's true that things are beautiful when they work. Art is function.
  • Art today can only be revolutionary, that is, it must aspire at the complete and radical reconstruction of society, even if for no other reason than to emancipate intellectual creation from the chains which obstruct it and to allow all mankind to rise to the heights that only geniuses could reach in the past.
  • How in its naked self
    Reason wer powerless showeth when philosophers
    wil treat of Art, the which they are full ready to do,
    having good intuition that their master-key
    may lie therein: but since they must lack vision of Art
    (for elsewise they had been artists, not philosophers)
    they miss the way; and ev'n the Greeks themselves, supreme
    in making as in thinking, never of their own art
    found the true hermeneutick.
  • Now nature is not at variance with art, nor art with nature; they being both the servants of his providence. Art is the perfection of nature. Were the world now as it was the sixth day, there were yet a chaos. Nature hath made one world, and art another. In brief, all things are artificial; for nature is the art of God.
  • What is art
    But life upon the larger scale, the higher,
    When, graduating up in a spiral line
    Of still expanding and ascending gyres,
    It pushed toward the intense significance
    Of all things, hungry for the Infinite?
    Art's life—and where we live, we suffer and toil.
  • It is the glory and good of Art,
    That Art remains the one way possible
    Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine at least.
    • Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book, The Book and the Ring, line 842. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
I think it’s unconstitutional when art is used against an artist to implicate them in a crime. The First Amendment provides that people have free expression, and I think with Black men the lens — we’re evaluated almost exclusively through a criminal lens. And so what would be art in the eyes of, or at the creation of, one person becomes a crime when it’s created by a young Black man. ~ Paul Butler


Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse. ~ Winston Churchill
The division between art and obscene pornography is a Western conception. There was no sense in Japan that sex or sexual pleasure was sinful. ~ Timothy Clark
  • If the world were clear, art would not exist.
  • Art isn't just technique, in any culture…it's also Content. It's understanding not just How, but also What, to express.
    • Adam-Troy Castro, The Funeral March of the Marionettes (originally published in F&SF, July 1997; reprinted in his collection An Alien Darkness (2000), p. 155)
  • Art is the triumph over chaos.
  • Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.
    • G. K. Chesterton, as quoted in Arts magazine: Vol. 1 (1926), also in The Golden Book magazine, Vol. 7, (1928) by Henry Wysham Lanier, p. 323.
  • A fairly clear line separated advertisement from art. ... The first effect of the triumph of the capitalist (if we allow him to triumph) will be that that line of demarcation will entirely disappear. There will be no art that might not just as well be advertisement.
  • Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.
  • Etenim omnes artes, quæ ad humanitatem pertinent, habent quoddam commune vinculum, et quasi cognatione quadam inter se continentur.
    • All the arts which belong to polished life have some common tie, and are connected as it were by some relationship.
    • Cicero, Oratio Pro Licinio Archia, I. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • The purpose of art is expression. Of course this short sentence raises many questions. By itself it is uninformative. One should specify what art can and cannot express. One should specify what art should and should not express. These questions cannot be answered without having some notion of the nature of man. Here it is presupposed that God created man as essentially a rational being. This implies that man’s most valuable expressions are rational and intellectual. Therefore, although man can express emotion, by screaming “Ouch,” art becomes more human and valuable in proportion to its intellectual content. This does not deny that excellent technique may express triviality, evil, and insanity. It asserts, however, that what should be expressed is rational and intelligent.
    • Gordon Clark, “Christian Aesthetics,” The Trinity Review, May 1989.
  • Wherever rights are denied the poor, the prophetic anger is turned not merely against the incumbent rulers but equally against the means society employs to gloss over its own mendacity. And foremost among these means is art. Catering to luxury and emphasizing only the beautiful, art denies the fact that wretchedness and destitution have a tight grip on the poor. This is the reason why the prophetic zeal turned against art, and not merely against the luxury of women and the pretentiousness of the rich.
    • Hermann Cohen, Reason and Hope: Selections from the Jewish Writings of Hermann Cohen, p. 118.
  • There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.
  • All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind, pinned down by the conditions of its existence to the earnest consideration of the most insignificant tides of reality.
  • I do a bale of sketches, one eye, a piece of hair. A pound of observation, then an ounce of painting.
    • Gardner Cox on his portraits, Washington Post (31 May 1975).


Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. ~ John Dewey
  • Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad.
  • L'arte vostra quella, quanto puote,
    Seque, come il maestro fa il discente;
    Si che vostr'arte a Dio quasi è nipote.
    • Art, as far as it is able, follows nature, as a pupil imitates his master; thus your art must be, as it were, God's grandchild.
    • Dante Alighieri, Inferno, XI. 103. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • Progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation.
    • Angela Davis, "For a People's Culture." Political Affairs, March 1995.
  • Roger Lundin surveys the history of Christian engagement with the arts, noting that the Reformation and Romantic movements, which encouraged inwardness and freedom as opposed to the new science of impersonal laws of nature, scuttled medieval contemplation, which had enabled art as mimesis of an enchanted cosmos. Modernists and fundamentalists in the twentieth century ironically shared a common aversion to nature and culture, positing a Manichean divide between the material and spiritual worlds. In the mid-twentieth century, evangelicals began to call for reengagement with culture, but with the exception of Dutch Calvinists were handicapped by shallow theology and limited cultural understanding. Lundin suggests that black church music has been evangelicalism’s greatest contribution to the arts, and highlights contemporary evangelical thinkers such as Wolterstorff, Begbie, and Vanhoozer, who in their different ways see art as useful action.
  • Art is the beautiful illustration of Truth from the creative imagination. The truth is in our life and unless it comes from the formlessness to the form we do not realize it.
  • Art is the complement of science. Science as I have said is concerned wholly with relations, not with individuals. Art, on the other hand, is not only the disclosure of the individuality of the artist but also a manifestation of individuality as creative of the future, in an unprecedented response to conditions as they were in the past. Some artists in their vision of what might be but is not, have been conscious rebels. But conscious protest and revolt is not the form which the labor of the artist in creation of the future must necessarily take. Discontent with things as they are is normally the expression of the vision of what may be and is not, art in being the manifestation of individuality is this prophetic vision.
  • Art is not the possession of the few who are recognized writers, painters, musicians; it is the authentic expression of any and all individuality. Those who have the gift of creative expression in unusually large measure disclose the meaning of the individuality of others to those others. In participating in the work of art, they become artists in their activity. They learn to know and honor individuality in whatever form it appears. The fountains of creative activity are discovered and released. The free individuality which is the source of art is also the final source of creative development in time.
  • ...the significant problems and issues of life and philosophy concern the rate and mode of the conjunction of the precarious and the assured, the incomplete and the finished, the repetitious and the varying, the safe and sane and the hazardous. ...these traits, and the modes and tempos of their interaction with each other, are fundamental features of natural existence. The experience of their various consequences, according as they are relatively isolated, unhappily or happily combined, is evidence that wisdom, and hence the love of wisdom which is philosophy, is concerned with choice and administration of their proportioned union. Structure and process, substance and accident, matter and energy, permanence and flux, one and many, continuity and discreetness, order and progress, law and liberty, uniformity and growth, tradition and innovation, rational will and impelling desires, proof and discovery, the actual and the possible, are names given to various phases of their conjunction, and the issue of living depends upon the art with which these things are adjusted to each other.
    • John Dewey, "Existence as Precarious and as Stable", Experience and Nature (1925).
  • The main thing to understand is that we are imprisoned in some kind of work of art.
    • Rod Dickinson and Terence McKenna: "Weird Shit Happens" (1995). First published in Performance Research Journal.
  • There is an art of reading, as well as an art of thinking, and an art of writing.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, Literary Character, Chapter XI In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • All passes, Art alone
    Enduring stays to us;
    The Bust out-lasts the throne,—
    The coin, Tiberius.
    • Austin Dobson, Ars Victrix (imitated from Théophile Gautier). In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • I'm a working writer and I dare call myself an artist. I do not feel marginal to this society but ra-ther deeply involved in its practical working life. My work provides employment to others--editors, typesetters, publishers, binders, newspaper critics, booksellers, teachers, movie actors and directors, and set designers and videotape store managers. Painters provide employment for printmakers, publishers, gallery owners and workers, art critics, TV documentarians, museum cu-rators and museum guards. The work of artists in every medium provides jobs and stimulates the economy. The NEA has generally funded younger writers at the beginning of their careers--so that they too, presumably will be in a position one day to generate jobs for others. All artists are, eco-nomically speaking, small businessmen. Perhaps we should be testifying before the Small Business Bureau.
  • I am one who tells the truth and exposes evil and seeks with Beauty for Beauty to set the world right.
  • You think you're doing something entirely your own, and a year later, you look at it and you see actually the roots of where your art comes from without your knowing it at all.
    • Marcel Duchamp Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists by Phaidon (2016)


  • All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
    • Albert Einstein, "Moral Decay" (1937); later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)
  • Art can only flourish in total freedom. In an artists’ assembly I recently stated: The artist must, as an artist, be an anarchist and as a member of society, as a citizen dependent on the bourgeoisie for the necessities of life, a socialist. The state can give the artist no other advice than that he freely and independently follow his innermost impulses, and that is the best the state can do to encourage art: that it gives the artist complete freedom of his artistic action. Its concern, and its justified concern, is that the artist be able to live, that he be able to exist as an economic entity.
    • Kurt Eisner, "The Socialist Nation and the Artist" (1919) Rose-Carol Washton Long, ed., German Expressionism, Documents from the End of the Wilhelmine Empire to the Rise of National Socialism. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1993, pp. 179-81.
  • What happens when a new work of art is created, is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new.
  • Art was not reality—it was only the appearance of reality.
  • And thus I arrive at the foundation of my theory about art as a vehicle for dissent: the fury and purity of the creator’s need to say something motivates the work, but he forms it from logic and craft and honesty and when the propaganda value has faded into last week’s imperative, the art remains behind and stands on its own merits.
  • The conscious utterance of thought, by speech or action, to any end, is art.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude, Art. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  •  Rationality is what we do to organize the world, to make it possible to predict. Art is the rehearsal for the inapplicability and failure of that process.


  • In the far north, where humans must face the constant threat of starvation, where life is reduced to the bare essentials—it turns out that one of these essentials is art. Art seems to belong to the basic pattern of life of the Eskimo, and of the neighboring Athapaskan and Algonkian Indian bands as well.
All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography. ~ Federico Fellini
Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike. ~ Margot Fonteyn
  • All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
  • No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.
    • Richard Feynman, "The Uncertainty of Values", in The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist (1999)
  • Art is necessary in order that man should be able to recognize and change the world. But art is also necessary by virtue of the magic inherent in it.
  • suppose any production, worthy to be called a work of art, can be made without its use is foolish. ...By the use of reason many mistakes in design may be avoided and many counterfeits of art readily detected....Beauty alone is an excellent reason for many things, but when a design is in direct conflict with common sense it cannot be a work of art.
    • Ernest Flagg, Small Houses: Their Economic Design and Construction (1922)
  • A master in art need not go into the highways and byways for affects; he knows the straight course and follows it. ...With dignity and simplicity come repose... the natural state of one at home in his surroundings and sure of his ground.
    • Ernest Flagg, Small Houses: Their Economic Design and Construction (1922)
  • [A]n association called La Peau de l'Ours... had been founded in 1904 by André Level for the express purpose of buying modern art, holding it for ten years, and then selling it for a substantial profit. ...[T]he group acquired 145 works, including ten paintings by Matisse and a dozen paintings and drawings by Picasso. ...[T]he investors believed their undertaking could further the cause of modern art by establishing a sound value for it. ...[T]hey agreed that each living artist would receive 20 percent of the profit from the resale... (Not until 1920 would this resale principle, known as droit de suite, be incorporated into French law.)
    • Jack Flam, Matisse and Picasso: The Story of Their Rivalry and Their Friendship (2003) pp. 98-99.
  • One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form. (12 August 1846)
  • One becomes a critic when one cannot be an artist, just as a man becomes a stool pigeon when he cannot be a soldier. (22 October 1846)
  • You can calculate the worth of a man by the number of his enemies, and the importance of a work of art by the harm that is spoken of it. (14 June 1853).
  • Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike.
  • "Collective art,"… is not an individual "leisure time" occupation, added to life, it is an integral part of life. It corresponds to a basic human need, and if this is not fulfilled, man remains as insecure and anxious as if the need for a meaningful thought picture of the world were unrealized.
  • In order to grow out of the receptive into the productive orientation, he [man] must relate himself to the world artistically and not only philosophically or scientifically.
  • There is undoubtedly a difference between people who manipulate other people and people who create things.
  • A relatively primitive village in which there are still real feasts, common artistic shared expressions, and no literacy at all—is more advanced culturally and more healthy mentally than our educated, newspaper-reading radio-listening culture.
  • The need for the creation of collective art and ritual on a nonclerical basis is at least as important as literacy and higher education.
  • The transformation of an atomistic into a communitarian society depends on creating again the opportunity for people to sing together, walk together, dance together, admire together—together, and not, to use Riesman's succinct expression, as a member of a "lonely crowd."
  • On the whole, our modern ritual is impoverished and does not fulfill man's need for collective art and ritual.
  • But there is a solution, there is an answer, there is redemption available for all of us and any one of us, and to the Catholic Church, funny enough I think it is a novel by Morris West, The Pope could decide that all this power, all this wealth, this hierarchy of princess, bishops, archbishops, priests, monks, and nuns could be sent out in the world with money and art treasures, to put them back in the countries that they once raped and violated, whose original systems of animism and belief in simplicity they told them would (tell them) take them straight to hell. They could give that money away, and they could concentrate on the apparent essence of their belief. Then, I would stand here and say the Catholic Church may well be a force for good in the world. But until that day, it is NOT.
    • Stephen Fry Intelligence²: "The Catholic church is a force for good in the world", November 7th 2009 [1]


Beauty is at once the ultimate principle and the highest aim of art. ~ Goethe
I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream. ~ Vincent van Gogh
  • I don't consider myself an artist. I go out there and I try to play what's right for the music. It seems to be a much more open approach and it would seem to allow me to be able to expand as the music of the time expands. I think people who get hung up in their own artistry often get into a certain style they think is them and if they do anything different the public won't be able to identify their artistry, which is kind of limiting. I don't think that way. I have a good time playing. I try to play the best I can. I know I can play the drums and I want to play the best that I can possibly play. I want to play better a year from now than I'm playing now, not because my artistry is at stake, but just because I like it.
    • Steve Gadd, responding to Julie Coryell's question regarding Gadd's role as an artist; as quoted in Jazz-Rock Fusion: The People, The Music (1978) by Coryell and Laura Friedman, p. 73
  • Do we not say that the judicious discovering of a most lovely Statua in a piece of Marble, hath sublimated the wit of Buonarruotti far above the vulgar wits of other men? And yet this work is onely the imitation of a meer aptitude and disposition of exteriour and superficial mem­bers of an immoveable man; but what is it in comparison of a man made by nature, composed of as many exteriour and inte­riour members, of so many muscles, tendons, nerves, bones, which serve to so many and sundry motions? but what shall we say of the senses, and of the powers of the soul, and lastly, of the understanding? May we not say, and that with reason, that the structure of a Statue falls far short of the formation of a living man, yea more of a contemptible worm?
  • If I behold a statue of some excellent master, I say with my self: "When wilt thou know how to chizzle away the refuse of a piece of Marble, and discover so lovely a figure as lyeth hid therein? When wilt thou mix and spread so many colors upon a Cloth, or Wall, and represent therewith all visible objects, like a Michael Angelo, a Raphaello, or a Tizvano? If I behold what invention men have had in comparting Musical intervals, in establishing Precepts and Rules for the management thereof with admirable delight to the ear, when shall I cease my astonishment? What shall I say of such and so various instruments of that Art? The reading of excellent Poets, with what admiration doth it swell anyone who attentively considereth the invention of concepts and their explanation? What shall we say of Architecture? What of Navigation? But, above all other stupendous inventions, what sublimity of mind was that in him, that imagined to himself to find out a way to communicate his most secret thoughts to any other person, though very far distant from him either in time or place, speaking with those that are in the Indies, speaking to those who are not yet born, nor shall be this thousand, or ten thousand years? And with how much facility? but by the various collection of twenty-four little letters upon a paper?
  • Art is that imaginative expression of human energy, which, through technical concretion of feeling and perception, tends to reconcile the individual with the universal, by exciting in him impersonal emotion. And the greatest Art is that which excites the greatest impersonal emotion in an hypothecated perfect human being.
  • Art is the one form of human energy in the whole world, which really works for union, and destroys the barriers between man and man. It is the continual, unconscious replacement, however fleeting, of oneself by another; the real cement of human life; the everlasting refreshment and renewal. For, what is grievous, dompting, grim, about our lives is that we are shut up within ourselves, with an itch to get outside ourselves. And to be stolen away from ourselves by Art is a momentary relaxation from that itching, a minute's profound, and as it were secret, enfranchisement. The active amusements and relaxations of life can only rest certain of our faculties, by indulging others; the whole self is never rested save through that unconsciousness of self, which comes through rapt contemplation of Nature or of Art.
  • Slowly, under our feet, beneath our consciousness, is forming that new philosophy, and it is in times of new philosophies that Art, itself in essence always a discovery, must flourish.
  • Truth admits but the one rule: No deficiency, and no excess! Disobedient to that rule — nothing attains full vitality. And secretly fettered by that rule is Art, whose business is the creation of vital things.
  • He is but a poor philosopher who holds a view so narrow as to exclude forms not to his personal taste. No realist can love romantic Art so much as he loves his own, but when that Art fulfils the laws of its peculiar being, if he would be no blind partisan, he must admit it. The romanticist will never be amused by realism, but let him not for that reason be so parochial as to think that realism, when it achieves vitality, is not Art. For what is Art but the perfected expression of self in contact with the world; and whether that self be of enlightening, or of fairy-telling temperament, is of no moment whatsoever. The tossing of abuse from realist to romanticist and back is but the sword-play of two one-eyed men with their blind side turned toward each other. Shall not each attempt be judged on its own merits? If found not shoddy, faked, or forced, but true to itself, true to its conceiving mood, and fair-proportioned part to whole; so that it lives — then, realistic or romantic, in the name of Fairness let it pass! Of all kinds of human energy, Art is surely the most free, the least parochial; and demands of us an essential tolerance of all its forms. Shall we waste breath and ink in condemnation of artists, because their temperaments are not our own?
  • Art is the great and universal refreshment. For Art is never dogmatic; holds no brief for itself; you may take it, or you may leave it. It does not force itself rudely where it is not wanted. It is reverent to all tempers, to all points of view. But it is wilful — the very wind in the comings and goings of its influence, an uncapturable fugitive, visiting our hearts at vagrant, sweet moments; since we often stand even before the greatest works of Art without being able quite to lose ourselves! That restful oblivion comes, we never quite know when — and it is gone! But when it comes, it is a spirit hovering with cool wings, blessing us from least to greatest, according to our powers; a spirit deathless and varied as human life itself.
  • L'Art supreme
    Seule a l'eternité
    Et le buste
    Survit la cité.
    • High art alone is eternal and the bust outlives the city.
    • Théophile Gautier, L'Art. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • The five genres of horror, porn, melodrama, suspense and comedy correspond to five bodily excretions: Vomit, semen, tears, sweat and urine. And each genre aims to bring about one of these excretions: Melodrama wants tears, porn wants semen, horror wants vomit, suspense wants sweat. Comedy wants two things: people should either piss themselves with laughter or laugh themselves to tears. That is the difference to high art: all five genres clearly want to have the consumer thrown out of gear.
  • Whores are the most honest girls. They present the bill right away. The others hang on and never let go.
  • The great artists are the ones who dare to entitle to beauty things so natural that when they’re seen afterward, people say: Why did I never realize before that this too was beautiful?
    • André Gide, Michael in The Immoralist, R. Howard trans., p. 159
  • Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.
    • Jean-Luc Godard What Is Cinema?" Les Amis du Cinéma (Paris, October 1, 1952).
  • I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.
    • Vincent van Gogh, As quoted in Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity (1997) by Jan Phillips, p. 176.
  • As all Nature's thousand changes
    But one changeless God proclaim;
    So in Art's wide kingdom ranges
    One sole meaning still the same:
    This is Truth, eternal Reason,
    Which from Beauty takes its dress,
    And serene through time and season
    Stands for aye in loveliness.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister's Travels, Chapter XIV (Chapter III, 128 of Carlyle's Ed.). In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • His pencil was striking, resistless, and grand;
    His manners were gentle, complying, and bland;
    Still born to improve us in every part,
    His pencil our faces, his manners our heart.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, Retaliation (1774), line 139. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • The canvas glow'd beyond ev'n nature warm;
    The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller (1764), line 137. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • The perfection of an art consists in the employment of a comprehensive system of laws, commensurate to every purpose within its scope, but concealed from the eye of the spectator; and in the production of effects that seem to flow forth spontaneously, as though uncontrolled by their influence, and which are equally excellent, whether regarded individually, or in reference to the proposed result.
    • John Mason Good, The Book of Nature, Series 1, Lecture LX In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • Let me formulate the artistic disposition as follows: it is reacting with one’s ideal to the flaw in oneself and in the world, and somehow making that reaction formation solid enough in the medium so that it indeed becomes an improved bit of real world for others.
  • Perhaps there is no other way of reaching some understanding of being than through art?
  • One cannot condemn tendencies in art; one can only condemn works of art. To be categorically against a current art tendency or style means, in effect, to pronounce on works of art not yet created and not yet seen. It means inquiring into the motives of artists instead of into results. Yet we all know — or are supposed to know — that results are all that count in art.


Like Duchamp's 'ready mades' - manufactured objects which qualified as art because he chose to call them such, the most unremarkable and inappropriate items - a pin, a plastic clothes peg, a television component, a razor blade, a tampon - could be brought within the province of punk (un)fashion...Objects borrowed from the most sordid of contexts found a place in punks' ensembles; lavatory chains were draped in graceful arcs across chests encased in plastic bin liners. Safety pins were taken out of their domestic 'utility' context and worn as gruesome ornaments through the cheek, ear or lip...fragments of school uniform (white bri-nylon shirts, school ties) were symbolically defiled (the shirts covered in graffiti, or fake blood; the ties left undone) and juxtaposed against leather drains or shocking pink mohair tops. ~ Dick Hebdidge
Who knows, the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa might have been the evilest woman in the world. ~ Charles Hoffman
The temple of art is built of words. Painting and sculpture and music are but the blazon of its windows, borrowing all their significance from the light, and suggestive only of the temple's uses. ~ Josiah Gilbert Holland
  • To find ourselves spoken for in art gives dignity to our pain, our anger, our losses.
    • Joy Harjo Interview in Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft by Bill Moyers (1999)
  • The artistic decline we are seeing culturally is very prominent, very clear right now if you just look at what people are accepting as art. It affects me personally because art culture is something so important to me; art affects me and it means so much to me whether it be music, literature, fashion, design, fine art — it's all so important, I think it's really what, at least for me, it's what life is about, it’s what’s important, it’s what’s moving, it’s what inspires you, it’s what life is about. So when we’re seeing such decline in that art culture right now it’s heartbreaking to me.
  • Like Duchamp's 'ready mades' - manufactured objects which qualified as art because he chose to call them such, the most unremarkable and inappropriate items - a pin, a plastic clothes peg, a television component, a razor blade, a tampon - could be brought within the province of punk (un)fashion...Objects borrowed from the most sordid of contexts found a place in punks' ensembles; lavatory chains were draped in graceful arcs across chests encased in plastic bin liners. Safety pins were taken out of their domestic 'utility' context and worn as gruesome ornaments through the cheek, ear or lip...fragments of school uniform (white bri-nylon shirts, school ties) were symbolically defiled (the shirts covered in graffiti, or fake blood; the ties left undone) and juxtaposed against leather drains or shocking pink mohair tops.
  • This is precisely what is decisive in Nietzsche’s conception of art, that he sees it in its essential entirety in terms of the artist; this he does consciously and in explicit opposition to that conception of art which represents it in terms of those who “enjoy” and “experience” it. That is a guiding principle of Nietzsche’s teaching on art: art must be grasped in terms of creators and producers, not recipients. Nietzsche expresses it unequivocally in the following words (WM, 811): “Our aesthetics heretofore has been a woman’s aesthetics, inasmuch as only the recipients of art have formulated their experiences of ‘what is beautiful.’ In all philosophy to date the artist is missing.” Philosophy of art means “aesthetics” for Nietzsche too—but masculine aesthetics, not feminine aesthetics. The question of art is the question of the artist as the productive, creative one; his experiences of what is beautiful must provide the standard.
  • When we represent a group of connections by a closed and coherent set of concepts, axioms, definitions and laws which in turn are represented by a mathematical scheme we have in fact isolated and idealized this group of connections with the purpose of clarification. But... it is not known how accurately the set of concepts describes reality.
    These idealizations may be called a part of the human language that has been formed from the interplay between the world and ourselves, a human response to the challenge of nature. In this respect they may be compared to the different styles of art, say of architecture or music. A style of art can also be defined by a set of formal rules which are applied to the material of this special art. These rules can perhaps not be represented in a strict sense by a set of mathematical concepts and equations, but their fundamental elements are very closely related to the essential elements of mathematics. Equality and inequality, repetition and symmetry, certain group structures play the fundamental role both in art and in mathematics.
  • Usually the work of several generations is needed to develop that formal system which later is called the style of the art, from its simple beginning to the wealth of elaborate forms... The interest of the artist is concentrated on this crystallization, where the material... takes, through his action, the various forms that are initiated by the first formal concepts of this style. After completion the interest must fade again, because... "interest" means... to be with... to take part in a process of life... [H]ow far the formal rules of style represent that reality of life which is meant by the art cannot be decided from the formal rules.
    • Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958)
  • Art is always an idealization; the ideal is different from reality—at least from the reality of the shadows, as Plato would have put it—but idealization is necessary for understanding.
  • 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
  • Art quickens nature; care will make a face; Neglected beauty perisheth apace.
  • One thing, however, did become clear to him [Goldmund] – why so many perfect works of art did not please him at all, why they were almost hateful and boring to him, in spite of a certain undeniable beauty. Workshops, churches, and palaces were full of these fatal works of art; he had even helped with a few himself. They were deeply disappointing because they aroused the desire for the highest and did not fulfill it. They lacked the most essential thing – mystery. That was what dreams and truly great works of art had in common: mystery.
  • Ars longa, vita brevis est.
    • Art [of healing] is long, but life is fleeting.
    • Hippocrates, Aphorismi, I, Nobilissimus Medicus; Translated from the Greek. Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, VII, 9. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • "Works of art" which cannot be understood in themselves but, for the justification of their existence, need those bombastic instructions for their use, finally reaching that intimidated soul, who is patiently willing to accept such stupid or impertinent nonsense—these works of art from now on will no longer find their way to the German people.
  • I have observed among the pictures submitted here, quite a few paintings which make one actually come to the conclusion that the eye shows things differently to certain human beings than the way they really are, that is, that there really are men who see the present population of our nation only as rotten cretins; who, on principle, see meadows blue, skies green, clouds sulphur yellow, and so on, or, as they say, experience them as such. I do not want to enter into an argument here about the question of whether the persons concerned really do or do not see or feel in such a way; but, in the name of the German people, I want to forbid these pitiful misfortunates who quite obviously suffer from an eye disease, to try vehemently to foist these products of their misinterpretation upon the age we live in, or even to wish to present them as "Art."
  • The proof of the endowment of a true artist is always to be found in the fact that his work of art expresses the general will of a period. Perhaps that is most clearly shown in architecture .... The religious mystical world of the Christian Middle Ages, turning inwards upon itself, found forms of expression which were possible only for that world. A [[w:Gothic|Gothic] stadium is as unthinkable as a Romanesque railway station or a Byzantine market hall. The way in which the artist of the Middle Ages, of the beginnings of the modern world, found the artistic solution for the buildings which he was commissioned to create is in the highest degree striking and admirable.
    That way, however, is no evidence that the conception of the content of life held by the folk of his day was in itself either absolutely right or absolutely wrong. It is evidence only that works of art have rightly mirrored the inner mind of a past age. It is therefore quite comprehensible that insofar as the attempt is made to carry on the life of that past age, those who search for solutions of artistic problems can still seek and find there fruitful suggestions.
  • It is not the mission of art to wallow in filth for filth's sake, to paint the human being only in a state of putrefaction, to draw cretins as symbols of motherhood, or to present deformed idiots as representatives of manly strength. Art must be the handmaiden of sublimity and beauty and thus promote whatever is natural and healthy. If art does not do this, then any money spent on it is squandered.
    • Adolf Hitler, excepted from a speech made at a National Socialist Party rally, Nuremberg, September 11, 1935.
  • In proportion as we add to mere variety a higher appreciation of those adaptations of matter which are due to human skill, and which we call Art, we pass outside the limits of matter and are no longer the slaves of roods and acres and a law of diminishing returns.
    • John A. Hobson, The Evolution of Modern Capitalism: A Study of Machine Production (1906)
  • In proportion as a community comes to substitute a qualitative for a quantitative standard of living, it escapes the limitations imposed by matter upon man. Art knows no restrictions of space or size, and in proportion as we attain the art of living we shall be likewise free.
    • John A. Hobson, The Evolution of Modern Capitalism: A Study of Machine Production (1906)
  • It is not strength, but art, obtains the prize,
    And to be swift is less than to be wise.
    'Tis more by art, than force of numerous strokes.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book 23, line 382. Pope's translation In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • I do believe that our lives and our art go together. Who I am and what I write are the same.
    • 1993 interview in Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston edited by Paul Skenazy and Tera Martin (1998)
  • These struggles have got to result in happy endings for all, and the readers must learn not to worship tragedy as the highest art any more.
  • There's a redemption that takes place in art
    • 1990 interview in Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston edited by Paul Skenazy and Tera Martin (1998)
  • Pictoribus atque poetis
    Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas.
    • Painters and poets have equal license in regard to everything.
    • Horace, Ars Poetica (18 BC), 9. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • [Odysseus] knows only two possibilities of escape. One he prescribes to his comrades. He plugs their ears with wax and orders them to row with all their might. Anyone who wishes to survive must not listen to the temptation of the irrecoverable, and is unable to listen only if he is unable to hear. Society has always made sure that this was the case. Workers must look ahead with alert concentration and ignore anything which lies to one side. The urge toward distraction must be grimly sublimated in redoubled exertions. Thus the workers are made practical. The other possibility Odysseus chooses for himself, the landowner, who has others to work for him. He listens, but does so while bound helplessly to the mast. ... The bonds by which he has irrevocably fettered himself to praxis at the same time keep the Sirens at a distance from praxis: their lure is neutralized as a mere object of contemplation, as art.
  • 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.
    • Ian Hornak, The 57th Street Review (January 1976).




  • Piety in art—poetry in art—Puseyism in art—let us be careful how we confound them.
    • Mrs. Jameson, Memoirs and Essays, The House of Titian. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • For art to be art it has to cure.
  • I remember some artists who said this world isn't worth anything, that it is a pigsty, that we are going nowhere, that God is dead, and all those things. Bad literature is this. To expose your navel, to tell how you drank your morning coffee amid general disgust, with everything around you rotting. While the world is dying, I drink my coffee. Or I perform my little sex acts. This is old-fashioned. One must cross this neurotic curtain.
  • The Christianocategori, or Accusers of Christians, are such and are so called, because those Christians who worship one living and true God praised in Trinity they accused of worshiping as gods, after the manner of the Greeks, the venerable images of our Lord Jesus Christ, of our immaculate lady, the holy Mother of God, of the holy angels, and of His saints. They are furthermore called Iconoclasts, because they have shown deliberate dishonor to all these same holy and venerable images and have consigned them to be broken up and burnt.
    Likewise, some of those painted on walls they have scraped off, while others they have obliterated with whitewash and black paint. They are also called Thymoleontes, or Lion-hearted, because, taking advantage of their authority, they have with great heart given strength to their heresy and with torment and torture visited vengeance upon those who approve of the images.
  • Art hath an enemy called Ignorance.
    • Ben Jonson, Every Man out of His Humour (1598), Act I, scene 1.
  • Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end.
    • James Joyce, Notebook entry, Paris (28 March 1903), printed in James Joyce: Occasional, Critical and Political Writing (2002) edited by Kevin Barry [Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-192-83353-7], p. 104.
  • A work of art wastes away and becomes lustreless in surroundings where it has a price but not a value. It radiates only when surrounded by love. It is bound to wilt in a world where the rich have no time and the cultivated no money. But it never harmonizes with borrowed greatness.


  • Most historians of science, when they mention Kaluza's work at all, say that the idea of the fifth dimension was a bolt out of the blue, totally unexpected and original. ...But their amazement is probably due to their unfamiliarity with the nonscientific work of the mystics, literati, and avante garde. ...because of Hinton, Zollner, and others, the possible existence of higher dimensions was probably the single most popular quasi-scientific idea circulating within the arts. ...the work of Riemann pollinated the world of arts and letters via Hinton and Zollner, and then probably cross-pollinated back into the world of science through the work of Kaluza.
    • Michio Kaku, Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension (1995).
  • The function of the modern artist was not to convey beauty, but to convey new truths.
  • When the world would sink under your feet, art shall remain the sole island on which you will stand.
  • All the art since the Renaissance seemed too men-oriented. I liked (the) object quality. An Egyptian pyramid, a Sung vase, the Romanesque church appealed to me. The forms found in the vaulting of a cathedral or even a splatter of tar on the road seemed more valid and instructive and a more voluptuous experience than either geometric or action painting.
    • Ellsworth Kelly 'Notes from 1969'; as quoted in “Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper”, ed. Diane Upright, Harry N. Inc., Publishers, New York, in association with the Fort Worth Art Museum, New York, 1987, p. 9.
  • Through the music speaks a truth about art that Wells does not understand, but that I hope to: that art doesn’t have to deliver a message in order to say something important. That art isn’t always a means to an end but sometimes an end in itself. That art may not be able to change the world, but it can still change the moment.
  • After she died, they kind of just came like vultures. ... Like, artists wanted pieces of her.
  • We tend to shy away from that grief,” she explains. “But I think that that’s the role of art: to help us into grief, and through grief, for each other, for our values, for the living world.
  • Nieuwerkerke's replacement did not give Manet and the painters of the Café Guerbois any... cause for cheer. Under the Third Republic... in November 1870 Charles Blanc... became Director of Fine Arts. ...Blanc had published a biography of Ingres, whom he idealized... and for several decades [Blanc] had been the most prolific and articulate exponent of the sort of Neoclassicism celebrated at the École des Beaux-Arts. In his lofty conception of art, Eve was the original representative of beauty, but by plucking the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge she had plunged the world into a... sort of Platonic world of appearances in which the ideal was obscured by the humdrum and ugly material world. ...[T]he ability to see through the veil of appearances... was "obscure, latent, and sleeping" among the majority of men. However, great artists— ...especially Ingres and the painters of the Italian Renaissance—"carry within themselves this idea of the beautiful in a state of light." The true mission of art was... to show the "idea of the beautiful" that concealed itself behind the flickering shadows of the fallen world. ...[A]rt should not portray nature... but should idealize it... [H]e was vehemently opposed to Realism and paintings of la vie moderne, believing that artists who imitated nature and everyday life were slaves to appearance.
    • Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism (2006) p. 315; citing Charles Blanc, Grammaire des arts du dessin (1867), Misook Song, The Arts Theories of Charles Blanc (1984), and Jennifer L. Shaw, "The Figure of Venus: Rhetoric of the Ideal and the Salon of 1863," Art History 14 (December, 1991) pp. 549-53.
  • Three men riding on a bicycle which has only one wheel, I guess that's surrealist.
    • Dong Kingman, Twenty-two Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work (1964).
  • Most artists are surrealists. … always dreaming something and then they paint it.
    • Dong Kingman, Twenty-two Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work (1964).
  • We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice peg,
    We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg.
    We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart,
    But the devil whoops, as he whooped of old; It's clever, but is it art?
    • Rudyard Kipling, The Conundrum of the Workshops. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • The more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation.
    • Hilton Kramer, The New York Times art critic, in the late 1960s when the term "minimal art" was in vogue; reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • “Art starts out simple. Pale. True to what is real. Like stone statues of the human body, or verse chanted by firelight. Pale, pale stone. Pale as straw. Simple words, that name what is true. Designs in natural wool, the color of rams’ horns. Then, as time goes on, the design becomes more elaborate. The colors brighter. The story twisted to fit rhyme, or symbol, or somebody else’s power. Finally, the designs are so elaborate, so twisted with motion, and the colors so feverish—look at me, Ludie—that the original, as it exists in nature, looks puny and withered. The original has lost all power to move us, replaced by a hectic simulacrum that bears only a tainted relation to what is real. The corruption is complete.”


  • Art unexamined is, after all, art unexperienced.
    • Jay Lake, A Critical Examination of Stigmata’s Print Taking the Rats to Riga (2011), reprinted in Last Plane to Heaven, ISBN 978-0-7653-7798-2, p. 236
  • Like all worthwhile art, the piece invites us on a journey that has no path nor map, nor even an endpoint. Only a process, footsteps through the mind of an artist now forever lost to us.
    • Jay Lake, A Critical Examination of Stigmata’s Print Taking the Rats to Riga (2011), reprinted in Last Plane to Heaven, ISBN 978-0-7653-7798-2, p. 238
  • Art is the creation of forms symbolic of human feeling.
    • Susanne Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), p. 40
  • Art is the objectification of feeling, and the subjectification of nature.
    • Susanne Langer, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, Vol. 1 (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967), p. 87
  • Creation always involves building upon something else. There is no art that doesn't reuse. And there will be less art if every reuse is taxed by the appropriator.
  • Art, like dreaming, is something so necessary to internal balance that people deprived of it go a little wacky. Art is the collective dreamplace, the reservoir of our deepest understandings and desires and hopes, as essential as water. In recognition of this fact, the marketplace offers us entertainment, hoping to replace the wild and forested interior of our souls with potted plastic plants. Just as we dream-whether we want to or not, whether we long for or fear our dreaming-people make art and are drawn to art.
    • Aurora Levins Morales "Walking the Talk, Dancing to the Music: the Sustainable Activist Life" in Medicine Stories (1998)
  • Every vital social movement immediately begins to generate art-songs, poetry, posters, murals, novels-an outpouring of the creativity that people will create from even the smallest crumbs of hope.
    • Aurora Levins Morales "Walking the Talk, Dancing to the Music: the Sustainable Activist Life" in Medicine Stories (1998)
  • In Science the paramount appeal is to the Intellect — its purpose being instruction; in Art, the paramount appeal is to the Emotions — its purpose being pleasure. A work of Art must of course indirectly appeal to the Intellect, and a work of Science will also indirectly appeal to the Feelings; nevertheless a poem on the stars and a treatise on astronomy have distinct aims and distinct methods. But having recognised the broadly-marked differences, we are called upon to ascertain the underlying resemblances. Logic and Imagination belong equally to both. It is only because men have been attracted by the differences that they have overlooked the not less important affinities.
  • All art is solitary and the studio is a torture area.
    • Alexander Liberman, The New York Times (13 May 1979).
  • The counterfeit and counterpart
    Of Nature reproduced in art.
  • Art is the child of Nature; yes,
    Her darling child in whom we trace
    The features of the mother's face,
    Her aspect and her attitude.
  • 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.


A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean. ~ George MacDonald
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity — reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob's mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel — Art. ~ Herman Melville
  • Gideon: I'm afraid I'm hopeless about novels just now, that's the fact. I'm sick of the form—slices of life served up cold in three hundred pages. Oh, it's very nice; it makes nice reading for people. But what's the use? Except, of course, to kill time for those who prefer it dead. But as things in themselves, as art, they've been ruined by excess. My critical sense is blunted just now. ...I couldn't write one, good or bad, to save my life, I know that. And I've got to the stage when I wish other people wouldn't. I wish everyone would shut up, so that we could hear ourselves think...
  • A genuine work of art must mean many things; the truer its art, the more things it will mean. If my drawing, on the other hand, is so far from being a work of art that it needs THIS IS A HORSE written under it, what can it matter that neither you nor your child should know what it means? It is there not so much to convey a meaning as to wake a meaning. If it do not even wake an interest, throw it aside. A meaning may be there, but it is not for you. If, again, you do not know a horse when you see it, the name written under it will not serve you much.
  • The artist is not the transcriber of the world, he is its rival.
  • Art ... can speak its own language only as long as the images are alive which refuse and refute the established order.
  • Comics they say are not literature--adventure strips lack artistic form, mental substance, and emotional appeal to any but the most moronic of minds. Can it be that 100,000,000 Americans are morons?
  • Art indeed is long, but life is short.
  • Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.
  • Art does not imitate, but interpret. It searches out the idea lying dormant in the symbol, in order to present the symbol to men in such form as to enable them to penetrate through it to the idea. Were it otherwise, what would be the use or value of art?
  • Instinct and study; love and hate;
    Audacity — reverence. These must mate,
    And fuse with Jacob's mystic heart,
    To wrestle with the angel — Art.
  • For Art is Nature made by Man
    To Man the interpreter of God.
    • Owen Meredith (Lord Lytton), The Artist, Stanza 26. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • My job is to make art expensive.
  • I make the whole world answer to my art.
    • Alice Meynell, "A Poet of One Mood", in Poems (London: John Lane, 1893), p. 55.
  • What do we do when things are hard to describe? We start by sketching out the roughest shapes to serves as scaffolds for the rest; it does not matter very much if some of those forms turn out partially wrong. Next, draw details to give these skeletons more life-like flesh. Last, in the final filling-in, discard whatever first ideas no longer fit. ...Until you've seen some of the rest, you can't make sense of any part.
  • If it is a dying craft we can't do anything about it. Civilisation moves on. Where are all the fresco painters now? Where are the landscape artists? What are they doing now? The world is changing. I have been very fortunate to be able to do the same job for 40 years. That's rare in any era.
  • Actually I think CGI has the potential to equal or even surpass what the human hand can do.
  • This sudden importance of art—an importance discovered by ideological movements, by the State, and by the business world—has made the artist a central figure on the public place. His earlier revolt against society, his marginal role as an entertainer, have of course predestined him to the role of an ally of all progressive movements that promise a universal society, that is, a universal public for his books, poems, paintings and partitions. His shudder before the ugliness of capitalist civilization, his isolation from the masses whose warmth and understanding he genuinely needs, make him an ideal, because uncritical, partner of the progressive ideologues who preach the overthrow of all that he hates.
    • Thomas Molnar, The Decline of the Intellectual (1961) Ch. 4 "The Intellectual as a Progressive"
  • Annie Besant’s book where she put forward the idea that theosophical mystical energies could be portrayed as colours or abstract shapes was practically the invention of abstract art. A lot of artists rushed out and read it and suddenly thought, ‘oh God you could, you could portray love as a colour, or depression as a colour” All of a sudden abstract art happens, a flowering out of occultism.
  • I don’t distinguish between magic and art. When I got into magic, I realised I had been doing it all along, ever since I wrote my first pathetic story or poem when I was twelve or whatever. This has all been my magic, my way of dealing with it.
    • Alan Moore, from an "Alan Moore Interview" by Matthew De Abaitua (1998), later published in Alan Moore: Conversations (2011) edited by Eric L. Berlatsky.
  • I saw no reason why you couldn't create a work of pornography that adhered to all the same standards as the best art or literature. The big difference between art and pornography is that art, at its best, makes you feel less alone. You see a painting or read a piece of writing that expresses a thought that you had but didn't express, and you suddenly feel less alone. Pornography, on the other hand, tends to engender feelings of self-disgust, isolation and wretchedness. I wanted to change that.
  • Actually, art and magic are pretty much synonymous. I would imagine that this all goes back to the phenomenon of representation, when, in our primordial past, some genius or other actually flirted upon the winning formula of “This means that.” Whether “this” was a voice or “that” was a mark upon a dry wall or “that” was a guttural sound, it was that moment of representation. That actually transformed us from what we were into what we would be. It gave us the possibility, all of a sudden, of language. And when you have language, you can describe pictorially or verbally the strange and mystifying world that you see around you, and it’s probably not long before you also realize that, hey, you can just make stuff up. The central art of enchantment is weaving a web of words around somebody. And we would’ve noticed very early on that the words we are listening to alter our consciousness, and using the way they can transform it, take it to places we’ve never dreamed of, places that don’t exist.
  • Magic and art tend to share a lot of the same language. They both talk about evocation, invocation, and conjuring. If you’re trying to conjure a character, then maybe you should treat that with the respect that you would if you were trying to conjure a demon. Because if an image of a god is a god, then in some sense the image of a demon is a demon. I’m thinking of people like Malcolm Lowry, the exquisite author of Under the Volcano. There are kabbalistic demons that are lurking all the way through Under the Volcano, and I assume they were probably similar forces to the ones that eventually overwhelmed Lowry’s life, such as the drinking and the madness. When I hear alcoholics talk about having their demons, I think that they’re probably absolutely literally correct.
  • The heart desires,
    The hand refrains,
    The Godhead fires,
    The soul attains.
    • William Morris; inscribed on the four pictures of Pygmalion and Galatea by Burne-Jones, in the Grosvenor Gallery, London. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • For me, Art is the restoration of order. It may discuss all sort of terrible things, but there must be satisfaction at the end. A little bit of hunger, but also satisfaction.
  • Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask.
  • One... characteristic of medieval space must be noted: space and time form two relatively independent systems. First: the medieval artist introduced other times within his own spatial world, as when he projected the events of Christ's life within a contemporary Italian city, without the slightest feeling that the passage of time has made a difference, just as in Chaucer the classical legend of Troilus and Cressida is related as if it were a contemporary story. When a medieval chronicler mentions the King... it is sometimes difficult to find out whether he is talking about Caeser or Alexander the Great or his own monarch: each is equally near to him. ...the word anachronism is meaningless when applied to medieval art... in Botticelli's The Three Miracles of St. Zenobius, three different times are presented upon a single stage.
    • Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch.3 "Space, Distance, Movement"
  • Once the major wants of mankind are satisfied by the machine process, our factory system must be on a basis of regular annual replacement instead of progressive expansion—not on a basis of premature replacement through debauched workmanship, adulterated materials, and grossly stimulated caprice. "The case," as Mr. J. A. Hobson again puts it, "is a simple one. A mere increase in the variety of our material consumption relieves the strain imposed upon man by the limits of the material universe, for such a variety enables him to utilize a larger proportion of the aggregate matter. But in proportion as we add to mere variety a higher appreciation of those adaptations of matter which are due to human skill, which we call Art, we pass outside the limit of matter and are no longer slaves of roods and acres and a law of diminishing returns." In other words: a genuine standard, once the vital physical wants are satisfied, tends to change the plane of consumption and therefore to limit, in a considerable degree, the extent of further mechanical enterprise.
    • Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch.8 "Orientation".
  • I do not believe in art which is not the compulsive result of humanity's urge to open its heart.
    • Edvard Munch Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists by Phaidon (2016) p 23
  • Many are willing to suffer for their art. Few are willing to learn to draw.
  • Art allows you to imbue the truth with a sort of magic, so it can infiltrate the psyches of more people, including those who don't believe the same things as you.
    • Wangechi Mutu Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists by Phaidon (2016) p 30


  • If you ask today what art is, what its function is, what the meaning of art is and why one should create art, the answer given oftentimes by Western philosophers of art and those who specialize in modern aesthetics is ‘‘art for art’s sake.’’ The modern response is that you just create art for the sake of art; but this was never the answer of traditional civilizations where one created art for both the sake of attainment of inner perfection and for human need in the deepest sense—because the needs of man are not only physical, they are also spiritual. We are as much in need of beauty as of the air that we breathe.
    • Seyyed Hossein Nasr, In Search of the Sacred: A Conversation with Seyyed Hossein Nasr on His Life and Thought (2010), p. 242.
  • Art is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity in this life
  • Thus the man who is responsive to artistic stimuli reacts to the reality of dreams as does the philosopher to the reality of existence; he observes closely, and he enjoys his observation: for it is out of these images that he interprets life, out of these processes that he trains himself for life.
  • Greek tragedy met her death in a different way from all the older sister arts: she died tragically by her own hand, after irresolvable conflicts, while the others died happy and peaceful at an advanced age. If a painless death, leaving behind beautiful progeny, is the sign of a happy natural state, then the endings of the other arts show us the example of just such a happy natural state: they sink slowly, and with their dying eyes they behold their fairer offspring, who lift up their heads in bold impatience. The death of Greek tragedy, on the other hand, left a great void whose effects were felt profoundly, far and wide; as once Greek sailors in Tiberius' time heard the distressing cry 'the god Pan is dead' issuing from a lonely island, now, throughout the Hellenic world, this cry resounded like an agonized lament: 'Tragedy is dead! Poetry itself died with it! Away, away with you, puny, stunted imitators! Away with you to Hades, and eat your fill of the old masters' crumbs!'
  • But for Socrates, tragedy did not even seem to "tell what's true", quite apart from the fact that it addresses "those without much wit", not the philosopher: another reason for giving it a wide berth. Like Plato, he numbered it among the flattering arts which represent only the agreeable, not the useful, and therefore required that his disciples abstain most rigidly from such unphilosophical stimuli — with such success that the young tragedian, Plato, burnt his writings in order to become a pupil of Socrates.
  • We cannot help but see Socrates as the turning-point, the vortex of world history. For if we imagine that the whole incalculable store of energy used in that global tendency had been used not in the service of knowledge but in ways applied to the practical — selfish — goals of individuals and nations, universal wars of destruction and constant migrations of peoples would have enfeebled man's instinctive zest for life to the point where, suicide having become universal, the individual would perhaps feel a vestigial duty as a son to strangle his parents, or as a friend his friend, as the Fiji islanders do: a practical pessimism that could even produce a terrible ethic of genocide through pity, and which is, and always has been, present everywhere in the world where art has not in some form, particularly as religion and science, appeared as a remedy and means of prevention for this breath of pestilence.
  • Science, spurred by its powerful illusion, speeds irresistibly towards its limits where its optimism, concealed in the essence of logic, suffers shipwreck. For the periphery of the circle of science has an infinite number of points...noble and gifted men...reach...inevitably, such boundary points on the periphery from which one gazes into what defies illumination. When they see to their horror how logic coils up at these boundaries and finally bites its own tail-suddenly the new form of insight breaks through, tragic insight which, merely to be endured, needs art as a protection and a remedy.
  • Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor can one live with any repose, security, and consistency: only by means of the petrification and coagulation of a mass of images which originally streamed from the primal faculty of human imagination like a fiery liquid, only in the invincible faith that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself, in short, only by forgetting that he himself is an artistically creating subject, does man live with any repose, security, and consistency. If but for an instant he could escape from the prison walls of this faith, his "self consciousness" would be immediately destroyed.
  • Art is the method of levitation, in order to separate one's self from enslavement by the earth.
    • Anaïs Nin, quoted in Sunbeams : A Book of Quotations (1990) by Sy Safransky, p. 137
  • The Art of a well-developed genius is far different from the Artfulness of the Understanding, of the merely reasoning mind. Shakspeare was no calculator, no learned thinker; he was a mighty, many-gifted soul, whose feelings and works, like products of Nature, bear the stamp of the same spirit; and in which the last and deepest of observers will still find new harmonies with the infinite structure of the Universe; concurrences with later ideas, affinities with the higher powers and senses of man. They are emblematic, have many meanings, are simple and inexhaustible, like products of Nature; and nothing more unsuitable could be said of them than that they are works of Art, in that narrow mechanical acceptation of the word.


The symbol of art is seen again in the magic flute of the Great God Pan which makes the young goats frisk at the edge of the grove. ~ José Ortega y Gasset
  • He searched disorder for its unifying principle.
    • Brian O'Doherty, On Stuart Davis, abstractionist whose work prefigured pop art, The New York Times (26 June 1964).
  • Art is marks on canvas trying to find a place to live.
  • Everyone is scared of genetic DIY. It's crucial for artists to work with such technologies. It is important that we work between science and art.
  • Were art to redeem man, it could do so only by saving him from the seriousness of life and restoring him to an unexpected boyishness. The symbol of art is seen again in the magic flute of the Great God Pan which makes the young goats frisk at the edge of the grove.
    All modern art begins to appear comprehensible and in a way great when it is interpreted as an attempt to instill youthfulness into an ancient world.
    • José Ortega y Gasset, in "Art a Thing of No Consequence", The Dehumanization of Art and Ideas about the Novel [La deshumanización del Arte e Ideas sobre la novela] (1925).
  • Arte citæ veloque rates remoque moventur;
    Arte levis currus, arte regendus Amor.
    • By arts, sails, and oars, ships are rapidly moved; arts move the light chariot, and establish love.
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, I. 3. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.


  • The Nefertiti bust is one of the most popular art works in the world. It is printed on scarves and molded in necklace pendants and coffee-table miniatures. But never in my experience is the bust exactly reproduced. The copyist softens it, feminizes it and humanizes it. The actual bust is intolerably severe. It is too uncanny an object for domestic display. Even art books lie. The bust is usually posed in profile or at an angle, so that the missing left pupil is hidden or shadowed. What happened to the eye?
    • Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990) p. 67
  • what art is about-and this is what justice is about, although you'll have your own interpretations-is the illumination of what isn't known, the lighting up of what is under a rock, of what has been hidden.
  • In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone; why is it not admissible in that second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive — what we could not discover in the stone — that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed in any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.
    This mechanism being observed … the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker — that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.
    Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made; that we had never known an artist capable of making one; that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed; all this being no more than what is true of some exquisite remains of ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the generality of mankind, of the more curious productions of modern manufacture.
  • It is not easy even with consciousness to discard the environmental trappings that accompany most art forms. Most of us still expect to see classical musicians in white blouses and long black skirts-but we are changing and growing.
    • Pat Parker “Poetry at Women's Music Festivals: Oil and Water" (1986) In The Complete Works of Pat Parker (2016)
  • We said we’d never make a video game unless we really did it hands-on. We’re both gamers, we both grew up as gamers and we both respect gaming as an art form, just like musical theatre so to us it wasn’t just ‘oh go and do something like that’. Once we’d finished Book of Mormon, Stick of Truth really was our other big project, and right now it’s this.
  • 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.
    • Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari (Pantheon 1958).
  • Art and music make manifest, by bringing into conscious awareness, that which has previously been felt only tentatively and internally. Art, in its widest sense, is a form of play that lies at the origin of all making, of language, and of the mind's awareness of its place within the world. Art, in all its forms, makes manifest the spiritual dimension of the cosmos, and expresses our relationship to the natural world. This may have been the cause of that natural light which first illuminated the preconscious minds of early hominids.
  • Buy a piece of art. Find one that speaks to you and make the purchase. If it is a genuine artistic production, it will invade your life and change it. A real piece of art is a window into the transcendent, and you need that in your life, because you are finite and limited and bounded by your ignorance. […] It is for such reasons that we need to understand the role of art, and stop thinking about it as an option, or a luxury, or worse, an affectation. Art is the bedrock of culture itself. It is the foundation of the process by which we unite ourselves psychologically, and come to establish productive peace with others.
  • What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, ears if he's a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he's a poet, or even, if he's a boxer, only some muscles? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, the passionate or pleasing events of the world, shaping himself completely in their image... No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.
  • For a long time I limited myself to one color — as a form of discipline.
    • Pablo Picasso, On his blue and rose periods, Picasso on Art (1972).
  • In the twentieth century, modernism and postmodernism took over, and their practitioners disdained beauty as bourgeois, saccharine, lightweight. Art was deliberately made incomprehensible or ugly or shocking... on the assumption that our predilections... were reversible social constructions. This also led to an exaggeration of the dynamic of social status that has always been part of the arts. The elite arts used to be aligned with the economic and political aristocracy. They involved displays of sumptuosity and the flaunting of rare and precious skills that only the idle rich could cultivate. But now that any schmo could afford a Mozart CD or go to a free museum, artists had to figure out new ways to differentiate themselves from the rabble. So art became baffling and uninterpretable—unless you had some acquaintance with arcane theory.
  • Love is a feeling, and its expression is an art.
    • Suman Pokhrel, I dread to think of a society devoid of love, compassion and humanity, (An interview with Romain Molina)
  • Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you.


  • The perfection of art is to conceal art.
    • Quintilian. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.


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. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
  • What I am searching for... is some formula that would combine individual initiative with universal values, and that combination would give us a truly organic form. Form, which we discover in nature by analysis, is obstinately mathematical in its manifestations—which is to say that creation in art requires thought and deliberation. But this is not to say that form can be reduced to a formula. In every work of art it must be re-created, but that too is true of every work of nature. Art differs from nature not in its organic form, but in its human origins: in the fact that it is not God or a machine that makes a work of art, but an individual with his instincts and intuitions, with his sensibility and his mind, searching relentlessly for the perfection that is neither in mind nor in nature, but in the unknown. I do not mean this in an other-worldly sense, only that the form of the flower is unknown to the seed.
  • The work of art … is an instrument for tilling the human psyche, that it may continue to yield a harvest of vital beauty.
  • There is no leading nation in the world that does not support the arts, usually two, three, ten times as much as we do. Why should we be different? Public arts funding is a concept that stands beside public education as an obligation a government has to its people and to history.
    Les Deux Soeurs
(The Two Sisters)
Renoir, 1889
  • I arrange my subject as I want it, then I go ahead and paint it, like a child. I want a red to be sonorous—to sound, like a bell; if it doesn't turn out that way, I put more reds or other colors till I get it. I am no cleverer than that. I have no rules and no methods; any one can look over my materials or watch how I paint—he will see that I have no secrets. I look at a nude; there are myriads of tiny tints. I must find the ones that will make the flesh on my canvas live and quiver.
    Nowadays they want to explain everything. But if they could explain a picture it wouldn't be art. Shall I tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art? It must be indescribable and it must be inimitable. ...So in our Gothic architecture: each column is a work of art, because the old French monk who set it up and carved its capital did what he liked—not doing everything alike, as... when things are made by machinery or by rules, but each thing different—like the trees in the forest.
    The work of art must seize upon you, wrap you up in itself, carry you away. It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion; it is the current which he puts forth which sweeps you along in his passion.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1908) answering Walter Pach's question concerning Renoir's method, as quoted by Walter Pach, "Renoir", Scribner's Magazine (1912) Vol. 51, pp. 610-612,; see also John Rewald, History of Impressionism (1946) p. 428, giving the year 1908 and quoting from Pach's article "Renoir", as reprinted in Walter Pach, Queer Thing, Painting (1938).
  • Die Kunst ist zwar nicht das Brod, aber der Wein des Lebens.
    • Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life.
    • Jean Paul Richter In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • 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 and culture give us the language to talk about what we are experiencing as oppressed people...The power of art and culture is that it speaks to our heart. It speaks to our emotions, but it also opens up our imagination to show us what’s possible. It takes us to another world, and we can experience that world.
  • Art means to dare — and to have been right.
  • I respect all definitions of art, but I cherish most the definition which states that art is an expression of the desire to communicate on the most meaningful level.
    • Chava Rosenfarb Introduction (1971) to Exile At Last: Selected Poems (2013)
  • That is what Castle's work needed: a beginner's eye—my eye, before it became too schooled and guarded, while it was still in touch with the vulgar foundations of the art, still vulnerably naive enough to receive that faint and flickering revelation of the dark god whose scriptures are the secret history of the movies.
  • The bond of sympathy, like the artist's eye for beauty, may stretch across many divisions.
    • Theodore Roszak, The Gendered Atom: Reflections on the Sexual Psychology of Science (1999).
  • I am willing to let it rest on the determination of every reader, whether the pleasure which he has received from these effects of calm and luminous distance be not the most singular and memorable of which he has been conscious... It is not then by nobler form, it is not by positiveness of hue, it is not by intensity of light... that this strange distant space possesses its attractive power. But there is one thing that it has, or suggests, which no other object of sight suggests in equal degree, and that is—Infinity. ...No work of any art, in which this expression of infinity is possible, can be perfect or supremely elevated, without it.
  • Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.
  • Greater completion marks the progress of art, absolute completion usually its decline.
    • John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Chapter IV, Part XXX, The Lamp of Beauty In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.


The universe was made on purpose, the circle said. … In the fabric of space and in the nature of matter, as in a great work of art, there is, written small, the artist’s signature. ~ Carl Sagan
The role of art is to make a world which can be inhabited. ~ William Saroyan
All art is but imitation of nature. ~ Seneca the Younger
  • The universe was made on purpose, the circle said. In whatever galaxy you happen to find yourself, you take the circumference of a circle, divide it by its diameter, measure closely enough, and uncover a miracle — another circle, drawn kilometers downstream of the decimal point. There would be richer messages farther in. It doesn't matter what you look like, or what you're made of, or where you come from. As long as you live in this universe, and have a modest talent for mathematics, sooner or later you'll find it. It's already here. It's inside everything. You don't have to leave your planet to find it. In the fabric of space and in the nature of matter, as in a great work of art, there is, written small, the artist’s signature. Standing over humans, gods, and demons, subsuming Caretakers and Tunnel builders, there is an intelligence that antedates the universe.
  • L'art n'est pas une étude de la réalité positive; c'est une recherche de la vérité idéale.
    • Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth.
    • George Sand La Mare au Diable, ch. 1 (1851); Frank Hunter Potter (trans.) The Haunted Pool (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1895) p. 15
  • L'art pour l'art est un vain mot. L'art pour le vrai, l'art pour le beau et le bon, voilà la religion que je cherche....
    • Art for the sake of art itself is an idle sentence. Art for the sake of truth, for the sake of what is beautiful and good — that is the creed I seek.
    • George Sand Letter to Alexandre Saint-Jean, (19 April 1872), published in Calmann Lévy (ed.) Correspondance (1812-1876). Eng. Transl by Raphaël Ledos de Beaufort in Letters of George Sand Vol. III, p. 242
  • Art is what is irresistible.
    • William Saroyan, 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.
    • William Saroyan Recalled at his Broadway memorial service, The New York Times (31 October 83).
  • During the darkest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when Republicans and religious conservatives controlled the federal government and were doing everything in their power to harm the sick and dying, queers organized and protested and volunteered and mourned. We also made music and theater and art. We took care of each other, and we danced and loved and fucked. Embracing joy and art and sex in the face of fear and uncertainty made us feel better—it kept us sane—and it had the added benefit of driving our enemies crazy. They couldn’t understand how we could be anything but miserable, given the challenges we faced—their greed, their indifference, their bigotry—but we created and experienced joy despite their hatred and despite this awful disease. We turned to each other—we turned to our lovers and friends and sometimes strangers—and said, "Fuck them. Now fuck me."
  • [U]tilizing the discoveries of scientists, photography was invented by artists for the use of artists. ...Daguerre had acquired a considerable reputation as a painter and inventor of illusionist effects in panoramas and... as a designer of stage settings... Almost at the same time as he invented the diorama... Daguerre began to experiment with the photographic process. ...[H]e would have to be considered... the first artist to utilize photographs for his paintings—before photography was in effect discovered.
    ...Talbot, the discoverer of another photographic process, was an amateur artist who used the camera lucida and camera obscura from the early 1820s as aids to his landscape drawings. Among other... near-discoverers of photography were artists who sought through the camera obscura... the last word in art.
    ...Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce succeeded in fixing what he called a heliograph on glass. Niépce and his son... a painter and sculptor, had been practicing the new art of lithography... Because the litho stones of good quality were difficult to obtain, they... substituted pewter plates. ...[T]he elder Niépce ...conceived of the idea of recording, photographically, [using as negatives, existing paper engravings made transparent by oiling or waxing] an image on the plate and etching it for printing. ...After unsuccessful experiments with chloride of silver, he used another light-sensitive substance called bitumen of judea; the unexposed parts could be dissolved, baring the metal to be etched ...By 1837, with common salt as a fixative, Daguerre made his first relatively permanent photograph...
  • When [Talbot] learned of Daguerre's achievement he promptly published... 'Photogenic Drawing' . During ...1839, after Dagurerre's and Talbot's discoveries had been advertised, other inventors ...appeared ...One claim indicated that certain artists ...thirty years previously, had developed a negative process using diluted nitric acid as a fixative, ...It had not, it seems, occurred to them, as later it did to Talbot, to make the negative translucent and re-photograph it. ...Whereas the daguerreotype was a direct positive process, each photograph a unique image on a ...polished metal plate, photogenic drawing was develop into a negative-positive one allowing for multiple copies ...Talbot's ...calotypes, were printed from oiled or waxed paper negatives. They thus reproduced the fibrous texture [image distortion] of the paper ...Talbot believed that the photograph would become an important aid to artists... the multitude of minute details ...'no artist would take the trouble to copy faithfully from nature'. Talbot wrote this in 1844 in his ...The Pencil of Nature, the first publication using actual photographic prints in conjuction with text.
    • Aaron Scharf, Art and Photography (1968) p. 9. Note: Talbot presented his paper, "Some Account of the art of Photogenic Drawing, or the process by which natural objects may be made to delineate themselves without the aid of the artist's pencil" (Jan. 31, 1839) to the Royal Society, as noted in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
  • Seraphs share with thee
    Knowledge; But Art, O Man, is thine alone!
    • Friedrich Schiller, The Artists, Stanza 2. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • Von der Freiheit gesäugt wachsen die Künste der Lust.
    • All the arts of pleasure grow when suckled by freedom.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Der Spaziergang, line 122. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • Kunst ist die rechte Hand der Natur. Diese hat nur Geschöpfe, jene hat Menschen gemacht.
    • Art is the right hand of Nature. The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Fiesco, II. 17. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • Schwer ist die Kunst, vergänglich ist ihr Preis.
    • Art is difficult, transient is her reward.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Wallenstein, Prolog, line 40. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • The law of simplicity and naïvety holds good of all fine art; for it is quite possible to be at once simple and sublime.
    True brevity of expression consists in everywhere saying only what is worth saying, and in avoiding tedious detail about things which everyone can supply for himself. This involves correct discrimination between what is necessary and what is superfluous. A writer should never be brief at the expense of being clear...
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena (1851) Also see The Art of Literature: A Series of Essays by Arthur Schopenhauer (1891) Tr. T. Bailey Saunders, "On Style" p. 31.
  • [E]verything which a man fails to pursue for its own sake is but half-pursued; and true excellence... can be attained only where... produced for its own sake alone, and not as a means to further ends. ...[N]o one will ever succeed in doing anything really great and original... who does not seek to acquire knowledge for himself, and... decline to trouble himself about the knowledge of others... [E]rudition means endowing... with a great mass of alien thought... So we find Sterne in his Tristram Shandy, boldly asserting that an ounce of a man's own wit is worth a ton of other people's. ...[T]he most profound erudition is no more akin to genius than a collection of dried plants is like Nature, with its constant flow of new life, ever fresh, ever young, ever changing. There are no two things more opposed than the childish naïvety of an ancient author and the learning of his commentator.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena (1851) Also see The Art of Literature: A Series of Essays by Arthur Schopenhauer (1891) Tr. T. Bailey Saunders, "On Style" pp. 51-52.
  • In a field of ripening corn I came to a place which had been trampled down by some ruthless foot; and as I glanced amongst the countless stalks, every one of them alike, standing there so erect and bearing the full weight of the ear, I saw a multitude of different flowers, red and blue and violet. How pretty they looked as they grew there so naturally with their little foliage! But, thought I, they are quite useless; they bear no fruit; they are mere weeds, suffered to remain only because there is no getting rid of them. And yet, but for these flowers, there would be nothing to charm the eye in that wilderness of stalks. They are emblematic of poetry and art, which, in civic life—so severe, but still useful and not without its fruit—play the same part as flowers in the corn.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, “Similes, Parables and Fables” (1851) Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 2, Ch. 31, § 380A. Also see Studies in Pessimism: A Series of Essays (1908) p. 137.
  • 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.
    • Robert C. Scull on his collection of pop and minimal art, Time (21 February 1964).
  • 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.
  • Omnis ars naturae imitatio est.
    • All art is but imitation of nature.
      • Seneca the Younger, Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium (Moral Letters to Lucilius), Letter LXV: On the first cause, as translated by Richard Mott Gummere.
  • Illa maximi medicorum exclamatio est, Vitam brevem esse, longam artem.
    • That is the utterance of the greatest of physicians, that life is short and art long.
    • Seneca the Younger, De Brevitate Vitæ, I In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 43-45.
  • it is always in the future that the course of art lies
  • It [art] communicates directly without asking approval of any authority. Its values are not those of set virtues, but are of the essential nature of man, good or bad. Art is one of the few media of expression which still remains unedited, unprocessed, and undictated. If its hazards are great, so are its potentialities magnificent.
    • Ben Shahn "The Education of an Artist" (1956/7)
  • To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
    To throw a perfume on the violet,
    To smooth the ice, or add another hue
    Unto the rainbow.
  • Art is the magic mirror you make to reflect your invisible dreams in visible pictures. You use a glass mirror to see your face: you use works of art to see your soul. But we who are older use neither glass mirrors nor works of art. We have a direct sense of life. When you gain that you will put aside your mirrors and statues, your toys and your dolls.
  • “Isn’t that what art is?…Making things up?”
    “No,” she said. “That is commerce—identifying a market and satisfying it. Art is seeing the truth and revealing it, as beautifully and forcefully and honestly as you are able.”
    • Delia Sherman, Gift from a Spring (2008), reprinted in Rich Horton (ed.), The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2009 (p. 145; ellipsis represents the elision of a few words for the sake of continuity)
  • Art is the signature of civilizations.
    • Beverly Sills, as quoted in The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women (1992) by Rosalie Maggio.
  • The very first moment when I realized what abstract art is, was the moment when my father came to my exhibition and he said: – Okay, but where are the pictures?
  • 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.
  • We create art to express our perception as to what is not visible in nature. There is no past or future in art…. art should always be in the present!


Cultural products which present foreign wars as the heroic effort of a master race to ennoble mankind are, to the degree they are successful as art, objectively in the interests of imperialists, who are people who make foreign wars against other races for profit. ~ Meredith Tax
Cultural products that present people who have no money or power as innately stupid or depraved, and thus unworthy of money or power, are in the interests of the ruling class and the power structure as it stands. ~ Meredith Tax
Cultural products which present women who do not want to be household slaves or universal mothers or sex objects as bitches or sexual failures objectively aid male supremacy. ~ Meredith Tax
  • I believe that art is the greatest outcome of imitating nature, as Greek philosopher Aristotle once said. ... We take it for granted that in traditional arts and culture an artist develops his skill and aesthetics by imitating a master or by repeating a motif. The Japanese word “nazorae,” which means simulation or transformable imitation, sums up the quintessential strength of Japanese traditional art to achieve ultimate beauty.
  • If you can't spontaneously detect (without analyzing) the difference between the sacred and profane, you'll never know what religion means. You will also never figure out what we commonly call art. You will never understand anything.
    • Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010) The Sacred and the Profane, p.19.
  • Under the impulse of such ideas [upon which an Acquisitive Society is based] men do not become religious or wise or artistic; for religion and wisdom and art imply the acceptance of limitations. But they become powerful and rich. They inherit the earth and change the face of nature, if they do not possess their own souls; and they have that appearance of freedom which consists in the absence of obstacles between opportunities for self-advancement and those whom birth or wealth or talent or good fortune has placed in a position to seize them.
  • Cultural products which present foreign wars as the heroic effort of a master race to ennoble mankind are, to the degree they are successful as art, objectively in the interests of imperialists, who are people who make foreign wars against other races for profit.
    • Meredith Tax, "Culture is not Neutral, Whom Does it Serve?" in Radical Perspectives in the Arts (1972), p. 15
  • Cultural products that present people who have no money or power as innately stupid or depraved, and thus unworthy of money or power, are in the interests of the ruling class and the power structure as it stands.
    • Meredith Tax, "Culture is not Neutral, Whom Does it Serve?" in Radical Perspectives in the Arts (1972), p. 15
  • Cultural products which present women who do not want to be household slaves or universal mothers or sex objects as bitches or sexual failures objectively aid male supremacy.
    • Meredith Tax, "Culture is not Neutral, Whom Does it Serve?" in Radical Perspectives in the Arts (1972), p. 15
  • Art is a human activity having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.
  • 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 activity of art is... as important as the activity of language itself, and as universal.
  • Art happens all the time, everywhere. All we have to do is to keep our minds open.


  • 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.
    • Paul Valery - Remarks on Poetry in The Art of Poetry, Vintage, 1958, p. 215.
  • The superior gratification derived from the use and contemplation of costly and supposedly beautiful products is, commonly, in great measure a gratification of our sense of costliness masquerading under the name of beauty.
  • Any valuable object in order to appeal to our sense of beauty must conform to the requirements of beauty and of expensiveness both. But this is not all. Beyond this the canon of expensiveness also affects our tastes in such a way as to inextricably blend the marks of expensiveness, in our appreciation, with the beautiful features of the object, and to subsume the resultant effect under the head of an appreciation of beauty simply. The marks of expensiveness come to be accepted as beautiful features of the expensive articles. They are pleasing as being marks of honorific costliness, and the pleasure which they afford on this score blends with that afforded by the beautiful form and color of the object.
    • Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899).
  • By habitually identifying beauty with reputability, it comes about that a beautiful article which is not expensive is accounted not beautiful.
    • Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899).
  • The taste of the more recent accessions to the leisure class proper and of the middle and lower classes still requires a pecuniary beauty to supplement the aesthetic beauty, even in those objects which are primarily admired for the beauty that belongs to them as natural growths.
    • Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899).
  • Hence has arisen that exaltation of the defective, of which John Ruskin and William Morris were such eager spokesmen in their time; and on this ground their propaganda of crudity and wasted effort has been taken up... And hence also the propaganda for a return to handicraft and household industry. So much of the work and speculations of this group of men... would have been impossible at a time when the visibly more perfect goods were not the cheaper.
    • Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899).
  • In aesthetic theory it might be extremely difficult, if not quite impracticable, to draw a line between the canon of classicism, or regard for the archaic, and the canon of beauty.


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. ~ Oscar Wilde
  • Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction.
    • Simone Weil, The Pre-War Notebook (1933-1939), published in First and Last Notebooks (1970) edited by Richard Rees.
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes in "Song of the South" remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of living actors and the cartoon technique. It regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery. Making use of the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, "Song of the South" unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.
    • Walter Francis White as quoted in Cohen, Karl F. (1997). Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America.
  • Around the mighty master came
    The marvels which his pencil wrought,
    Those miracles of power whose fame
    Is wide as human thought.
  • Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism that the world has known. Crime, which, under certain conditions, may seem to have created Individualism, must take cognisance of other people and interfere with them. It belongs to the sphere of action. But alone, without any reference to his neighbours, without any interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful thing; and if he does not do it solely for his own pleasure, he is not an artist at all.
  • Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.
  • Autrefois, j'étais poète et tyran. Maintenant je suis artiste et anarchiste.
    • In the past I was a poet and a tyrant. Now I am an artist and an anarchist.
    • Oscar Wilde in Poetry and Radical Politics in Fin de Siècle France: From Anarchism to Action française (Oxford: 2015), p. 133
  • No art can be judged by purely aesthetic standards, although a painting or a piece of music may appear to give a purely aesthetic pleasure. Aesthetic enjoyment is an intensification of the vital response, and this response forms the basis of all value judgements. The existentialist contends that all values are connected with the problems of human existence, the stature of man, the purpose of life. These values are inherent in all works of art, in addition to their aesthetic values, and are closely connected with them.
    • Colin Wilson in The Chicago Review (Volume 13, no. 2, 1959, p. 152-181)
  • It is easy to see that the mimetic image is inscribed in art. Every painting, every sculpture, every photograph wants to be a second body And it is easy to see that the apparitional, instantaneous image is also inscribed in the work of art. Modern works of art, according to Theodor Adorno, are "ashamed" of their apparitional quality but are unable to shed it. "If the deities of antiquity," Adorno wrote, "were said to appear fleetingly at their cult sites .. . this act of appearing became the law of the permanence of artworks, but at the price of the living incarnation of what appears." It is harder to see that the work of art is already inscribed in every image, even in the supposedly pre-aesthetic artifact like the effigy and the mask. Emile Durkheim recognized this fact when he observed that "art is not merely an external ornament with which the [religious] cult has adorned itself in order to dissimulate certain of its features which may be too austere and too rude; but rather, in itself, the cult is something aesthetic."' The image is thus best understood not as the origin but as the destination of art.
  • 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.
  • I don't really have studios. I wander around — around people's attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.




  • How empty learning, and how vain is art,
    But as it mends the life, and guides the heart!
    • Edward Young (1683 – April 5, 1765) Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)., p. 366.


  • The artist and monk are distinct... because they apply themselves self-consciously to transformation. They educate themselves for an end they have chosen. By contrast, most of us are educated by others and for ends we have not chosen. Traditionally, artists, philosophers, and religious figures have formed that small segment of society that engages in the important if often painful business of introspection and prophetic critique. They sense the dangers of an unthinking, habitual mode of seeing and know the need for tireless renewal.
    • Arthur Zajonc, Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind (1993)
  • A hierarchy of senses, with the visual steadily more separate from the others and seeking its completion in artificial images such as cave paintings, moves to replace the full simultaneity of sensual gratification.
    • John Zerzan, "Against Art," in Elements of Refusal (1999), p. 64

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