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Most artists are surrealists. … always dreaming something and then they paint it. ~ Dong Kingman

An artist is a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts, and/or demonstrating an art.

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F[edit]

  • In a way, artists are messengers between worlds, bringing ideas and symbols from one to the other.
    • Kathleen Alcalá "The Madonna in Cyberspace" (2000) in The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (2007)
  • That's what we do as artists: we collect, we connect, we serve as scribes for the collective culture, and as messengers between worlds. Most important, we bring these symbols to the public. This is our gift, our regalo, our ofrenda. But it's up to the reader, the viewer, the listener, to bring out the power of these stories, to call out their names, and give them a place in the world.
    • Kathleen Alcalá "The Madonna in Cyberspace" (2000) in The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (2007)
  • All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us all that we are more alike than we are unalike.
  • 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)
  • Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people. An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are. He has to tell, because nobody else can tell, what it is like to be alive.
    • James Baldwin quoted in "Doom and glory of knowing who you are" by Jane Howard, in LIFE magazine, Vol. 54, No. 21 (24 May 1963), p. 89
  • 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).
  • Artists shouldn't be made famous.
    • Kate Bush, Profiles in Rock interview (December 1980).
  • 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.
  • If I were asked to saywhat distinguishes an artistic temperament from any other, I'd say that it's a fundamental sense that the project of being aliveis something peculiar, little understood.
    • Mark Doty, The Art of Description, 2010
  • Let us consider two important factors, the two poles of the creation of art: the artist on one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity; to all appearances the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.
    • Marcel Duchamp, 'The Creative Act', 1957, Duchamp's lecture in Houston, April 1957, in Art News, 56. no. 4, Summer 1957, p. 28 –29
  • "Just picture it to yourself," he would explain. "From the depths of the universe, millions of eyes are looking down, and what do they see? A dull, monochrome grey mass crawling and crawling over the earth, then suddenly, like a pistol shot — a bright red blob! That's me going outside."
  • 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.

G - L[edit]

  • I have come to the conclusion that a work of art restricted to what the artist has put in it is only a part of itself. It only attains full stature with what people and time make of it. It involves the whole complex of human relation to life. It is a mode of thinking, acting, perceiving and living.
    • Naum Gabo (1937) in a letter to Herbert Read. Cited in: Cyril Connolly (1944) Horizon: a review of literature and art. Vol 9-10. p. 58
  • [T]he entrepreneur is the focal point at which the dynamic forces... materialize into action for economic progress. The entrepreneur doesn't really respond primarily to the profit motive... entrepreneur and investor—are often not... the same person. Neither does the entrepreneur seek power... management and entrepreneur are not necessarily one. Nor do Veblenesque social status or Weberian Protestant righteousness seem to be the main motives... Rather, he seems to be the adventurer, a pioneer, an artist sculpting in economic clay. ...Is the dynamic force that sustains the industrialized economic system... an irrational spirit..? Many economists... postulate the existence of an "economic man," who rationally and objectively computes... and makes a decision that will maximize profits. ...[T]his imaginary construct is the dynamic implicitly assumed for almost all of the economic theories from the late 1800s to the present. ...[T]hey continue to use it because without economic man most of their theories would be invalidated.
    • Martin Gerhard Giesbrecht, The Evolution of Economic Society: An Introduction to Economics (1972) Ch. 7, The Arrival of Modern Economies and Economics, pp. 190-191.
  • The studio, a room to which the artist consigns himself for life, is naturally important, not only as workplace, but as a source of inspiration. And it usually manages, one way or another, to turn up in his product.
  • I’ve been blessed to know a lot of artists who are also mothers, who don’t necessarily go the cliché route of “motherhood ruins you.” It has always been more nuanced conversations, about the joy found in some aspects of parenting, how this perspective does and doesn’t inform creative life, and how one has a full community life as an artist even if one isn’t as a mother.
  • The name of Leonardo da Vinci will be invoked by artists to prove that only a great artist can be a great technician. The name of Leonardo da Vinci will be invoked by technicians to prove that only a great technician can be a great artist.
  • The Joker I now do what other people only dream. I make art until someone dies. See? I am the world's first fully functioning homicidal artist.
  • 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.
  • If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He's not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he's really needed.
    • David Hockney Interview with Paul Joyce, New York, (September 1986) quoted in Hockney on Photography, ed. Wendy Brown (1988).
  • Artists have themes that they go back to—that they are haunted by and obsessed with.
  • I hope when artists write new characters, we invent new archetypes and they are visions of ways that we can be...What we need to do is to be able to imagine the possibility of a playful, peaceful, nurturing, mothering man, and we need to imagine the possibilities of a powerful, nonviolent woman and the possibilities of harmonious communities and if we can just imagine them, that would be the first step toward building them and becoming them.
  • The artist tries to see what there is to be interested in... He has not created something, he has seen something.
  • My job is to help the world..That is what an artist's job is—to the degree that we can. That is nothing more than holding up a mirror and saying, 'You're beautiful, baby.' Or holding up a mirror and saying, 'Look at the shit that you're doing to yourself. Maybe you should stop.' It is an artist's job to speak truth to power.
    • N.K. Jemisin in "N.K. Jemisin Is Trying to Keep the World From Ending" in Gentlemen's Quarterly (2018 Nov 28)
  • there is some sense in which that lack of establishment approval is a blessing, for an artist must learn (the sooner the better) that he or she works for the work itself, not for approval, and it is easier to establish that sense of creative independence when approval is lacking than when one is seduced by it.
    • Erica Jong "Blood and Guts: The Tricky Problem of Being a Woman Writer in the Late Twentieth Century" In The Writer on Her Work edited by Janet Sternburg (2000)
  • ... the primary obstacle for any artis: not piracy, but obscurity.
    • Kevin Kelly, "Engines of Wow," WIRED (2023)
  • The first major European development in mathematics occurred in the work of the artists. Imbued with the Greek doctrines that man must study himself and the real world, the artists began to paint reality... instead of interpreting religious themes in symbolic styles. They applied Euclidean geometry to create a new system of perspective... From the work of the artists, the mathematicians derived ideas and problems that led to a new branch of mathematics, projective geometry.
  • Dead he is not, but departed,—for the artist never dies.

M - R[edit]

  • He's being irritating and irresponsible, but what do you expect? He's an artist.
  • The authentic artist carries within himself another world to which the ordinary person has no access. The great value of the poet is that he enriches us with new, thoroughly experienced feelings, with unseen or differently seen landscapes.
    • Drunk from the Bitter Truth: The Poems of Anna Margolin translated from Yiddish by Shirley Kumove (2017)
  • It is only after years of preparation that the young [artist] should touch color — not color used descriptively, that is, but as a means of personal expression.
  • we are all supposed to become artists; that the transformation of culture through art is the proper understanding of what you can do with psychedelics besides blow your own mind. And I really think, you know, what we need to do is put the art-pedal to the floor, and understand that this is art—we are involved in some kind of enormous piece of performance art called Western civilization, and, you know, it's been a C-minus performance so far … and they are just about to reach out with the hook and drag us offstage, unless we begin pulling rabbits out of the hat pretty furiously.
  • We're creators by permission, by grace as it were. No one creates alone, of and by himself. An artist is an instrument that registers something already existent, something which belongs to the whole world, and which, if he is an artist, he is compelled to give back to the world.
  • 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"
  • The observation of nature is part of an artist's life, it enlarges his form-knowledge, keeps him fresh and from working only by formula, and feeds inspiration
    • Henry Moore, ‎Sir Herbert Edward Read, ‎David Sylvester (1957) Henry Moore: 1921-1948, p. xxxi
  • There is one quality I find in all the artists I admire most - men like Masaccio, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cezanne. I mean a disturbing element, a distortion, giving evidence of a struggle of some sort.
    • Henry Moore in: ‎Alan G. Wilkinson (2002) Henry Moore. Writings and Conversations. p. 117
  • Revolution is not only won by numbers, but by visionaries, and if artists aren't visionaries, then we have no business doing what we do.
    • Cherríe Moraga "Art in America, Con Acento" (1992) anthologized in Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean edited by Jennifer Browdy
  • The social outcome of the arts and crafts movement was not commensurate with the needs of the new situation; as Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright pointed out in his memorable speech at Hull House in 1908, the machine itself was as much an instrument of art, in the hands of an artist, as were the simple tools and utensils.
    • Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. 7 "Assimilation of the Machine"
  • A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.
  • It is an artist’s dream/goal to share their work with the world, and I have been blessed in that regard. I have enjoyed creating and sharing it all…(What advice do you have for young artists?) DO: Without hesitation, I would say just be yourself and let your imagination, thoughts, beliefs, views, visions — or whatever inspires you — be seen. Be vulnerable, and share what is inside you. Regardless of what medium you chose to create, open up and share your gift.
  • The unknown shines through the productions of great artists in partially articulated form. The awe-inspiring ineffable begins to be realized but retains a terrifying abundance of its transcendent power. That is the role of art, and that is the role of artists. It is no wonder we keep their dangerous, magical productions locked up, framed, and apart from everything else.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To express himself well, the artist should be hidden... The trouble is that if an artist knows he has genius, he's done for. The only salvation is to work like a labourer, and not have delusions of grandeur.
  • The artist who uses the least of what is called imagination, will be the greatest!
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir, quoted in: Giles Auty (1977) The Art of Self-Deception: An Intelligible Guide, p. 88
  • Where every public decision has to be justified in the scales of corporate profits, poetry unsettles these apparently self-evident propositions-not through ideology, but by its very presence and ways of being, its embodiment of states of longing and desire...poetry is always being created anew, in new places, by unforetold hands and voices. In this, it is like the many movements against demoralizing power. We don't know where either will come from. This is a story without an end.
    • Adrienne Rich Preface to What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (1993)
  • In a time when so many artists have learned to confabulate with extremes of horror and alienation, the most daring thing an artist can do is to fill a book, a gallery, or a theater with joy, hope, and beauty.
    • Betty and Theodore Roszak, "Deep Form in Art and Nature" Alexandria 4, Vol.4 The Order of Beauty and Nature (1997) ed. David Fideler.

S - Z[edit]

  • The artist occupies a unique position vis-à-vis the society in which he lives. However dependent upon it he may be for his livelihood, he is still somewhat removed from its immediate struggles for social status or for economic supremacy. He has no really vested interest in the status quo. The only vested interest-or one might say, professional concern-which he does have in the present way of things rests in his ability to observe them, to assimilate the multifarious details of reality, to form some intelligent opinion about the society or at least an opinion consistent with his temperament. That being the case, he must maintain an attitude at once detached and deeply involved.
  • Dead artists always bring out an older, richer crowd.
    • Elizabeth Shaw, on a fauvism exhibition that drew 2,000 people, The New York Times (26 March 1976)
  • It was Homer who gave laws to the artist.
    • Francis Wayland, The Iliad and the Bible. In Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), pp. 43-45
  • Mathematics is too arduous and uninviting a field to appeal to those to whom it does not give great rewards. These rewards are of exactly the same character as those of the artist. To see a difficult uncompromising material take living shape and meaning is to be Pygmalion, whether the material is stone or hard, stonelike logic. To see meaning and understanding come where there has been no meaning and no understanding is to share the work of a demiurge. No amount of technical correctness and no amount of labour can replace this creative moment, whether in the life of a mathematician or of a painter or musician. Bound up with it is a judgement of values, quite parallel to the judgement of values that belongs to the painter or the musician. Neither the artist nor the mathematician may be able to tell you what constitutes the difference between a significant piece of work and an inflated trifle; but if he is not able to recognise this in his own heart, he is no artist and no mathematician.
  • 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.
  • The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.
    • Émile Zola, as quoted in Wisdom for the Soul : Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing‎ (2006) by Larry Chang , p. 55.

External links[edit]

  • Encyclopedic article on Artist on Wikipedia