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date: 09 December 2023


  1. Art is born of humiliation.
    W. H. Auden 1907–73 English poet: Stephen Spender World Within World (1951)
  2. Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm…an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.
    Saul Bellow 1915–2005 American novelist: George Plimpton Writers at Work (1967) 3rd series
  3. I suppose art is the only thing that can go on mattering once it has stopped hurting.
    Elizabeth Bowen 1899–1973 British novelist and short-story writer, born in Ireland: Heat of the Day (1949)
  4. The history of art is the history of revivals.
    Samuel Butler 1835–1902 English novelist: Notebooks (1912) ch. 8
  5. An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.
    Jean Cocteau 1889–1963 French dramatist and film director: in Newsweek 16 May 1955
  6. Art for art's sake, with no purpose, for any purpose perverts art. But art achieves a purpose which is not its own.
    describing a conversation with Crabb Robinson about the latter's work on Kant's aesthetics
    Benjamin Constant 1767–1834 French novelist, political philosopher, and politician: Journal intime 11 February 1804; see Cousin
  7. Art is vice. You don't marry it legitimately, you rape it.
    Edgar Degas 1834–1917 French artist: Paul Lafond Degas (1918)
  8. Simplicity is the greatest glory of art.
    Albrecht Dürer 1471–1528 German painter and engraver: recalled by Melancthon; William Bell Scott Albert Durer: His Life and Works (1869)
  9. I always said God was against art and I still believe it.
    Edward Elgar 1857–1934 English composer: letter to A. J. Jaeger, 9 October 1900
  10. Art is a jealous mistress.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803–82 American philosopher and poet: The Conduct of Life (1860) ‘Wealth’
  11. All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography.
    Federico Fellini 1920–93 Italian film director: in Atlantic Monthly December 1965
  12. The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him.
    Gustave Flaubert 1821–80 French novelist: letter to Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie, 18 March 1857
  13. In art one is either a plagiarist or a revolutionary.
    usually quoted as ‘Art is either plagiarism or revolution’
    Paul Gauguin 1848–1903 French painter: attributed; James Huneker The Pathos of Distance (1913)
  14. In art the best is good enough.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749–1832 German poet, novelist, and dramatist: Italienische Reise (1816–17) 3 March 1787
  15. The purpose of art is the lifelong construction of a state of wonder.
    Glenn Gould 1932–82 Canadian pianist and composer: commencement address, York University, Toronto, 6 November 1982
  16. Life is short, the art long.
    often quoted as ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’, after Seneca's rendering in De Brevitate Vitae sect. 1
    Hippocrates c.460–357 bc Greek physician: Aphorisms sect. 1, para. 1 (tr. W. H. S. Jones); see Chaucer
  17. Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus.
    David Hockney 1937–  British artist: in Guardian 26 October 1988
  18. The greater the artist, the greater the doubt; perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.
    Robert Hughes 1938–2012 Australian writer: in Time magazine 10 June 1996
  19. We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
    Henry James 1843–1916 American novelist: ‘The Middle Years’ (short story, 1893)
  20. Life being all inclusion and confusion, and art being all discrimination and selection.
    Henry James 1843–1916 American novelist: The Spoils of Poynton (1909 ed.)
  21. The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.
    James Joyce 1882–1941 Irish novelist: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) ch. 5
  22. 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 1865–1936 English writer and poet: ‘The Conundrum of the Workshops’ (1892)
  23. Art is the objectification of feeling, and the subjectification of nature.
    Susanne Langer 1895–1985 American philosopher: in Mind (1967) vol. 1
  24. Art is a revolt against fate.
    André Malraux 1901–76 French novelist, essayist, and art critic: Les Voix du silence (1951)
  25. Filling a space in a beautiful way. That's what art means to me.
    Georgia O'Keeffe 1887–1986 American painter: in Art News December 1977
  26. The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.
    Pablo Picasso 1881–1973 Spanish painter: Alfred H. Barr Jr. Picasso: Fifty Years of his Art (1946)
  27. We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.
    Pablo Picasso 1881–1973 Spanish painter: Dore Ashton Picasso on Art (1972) ‘Two statements by Picasso’
  28. A work of art is good if it has grown out of necessity.
    Rainer Maria Rilke 1875–1926 German poet: Letters to a Young Poet (1929) 17 February 1903 (tr. R. Snell)
  29. Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together.
    John Ruskin 1819–1900 English art and social critic: The Two Paths (1859) Lecture 2
  30. Art for art's sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of the true, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.
    George Sand 1804–76 French novelist: letter to Alexandre Saint-Jean, 1872
  31. Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.
    Leo Tolstoy 1828–1910 Russian novelist: What is Art? (1898) ch. 19
  32. Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.
    Leon Trotsky 1879–1940 Russian revolutionary: Literature and Revolution (1924)
  33. Airing one's dirty linen never makes for a masterpiece.
    François Truffaut 1932–84 French film director: Bed and Board (1972)
  34. Another unsettling element in modern art is that common symptom of immaturity, the dread of doing what has been done before.
    Edith Wharton 1862–1937 American novelist: The Writing of Fiction (1925)
  35. Art never expresses anything but itself.
    Oscar Wilde 1854–1900 Irish dramatist and poet: Intentions (1891) ‘The Decay of Lying’