Quotations about   artist

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An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) French writer, filmmaker, artist
Quoted in Newsweek (16 May 1955)
Added on 11-Jun-20 | Last updated 11-Jun-20
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If the artist does not throw himself into his work as Curtius sprang into the gulf, as a soldier leads a forlorn hope without a moment’s thought, and if when he is in the crater he does not dig as a miner does when the earth has fallen in on him; if he contemplates the difficulties before him instead of conquering them one by one, like the lovers in fairy tales, who to win their princesses overcome ever-new enchantments, the work remains incomplete; it perishes in the studio where creativeness becomes impossible, and the artist looks on the suicide of his own talent.

[Si l’artiste ne se précipite pas dans son oeuvre, comme Curtius dans le gouffre, comme le soldat dans la redoute, sans réfléchir; et si, sans ce cratère, il ne travaille pas comme le mineur enfoui sous un éboulement: s’il contemple enfin les difficultés au lieu de las vaincre une à une, à l’example de ces amoureux des féeries, qui pour obtenir leurs princesses, combattaient des enchantements renaissants, l’oeuvre reste inachevée, elle périt au fond de l’atelier où la production devient impossible, et l’artiste assiste au suicide de son talent.]

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) French novelist, playwright
Cousin Betty [La Cousine Bette] (1846) [tr. Waring (1899)]
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Curtius is the young Roman patrician, Marcus Curtius. In 362 BC, a chasm opened up in Rome's forum, and soothsayers proclaimed it could only be filled by Rome's greatest treasure. Curtius mounted his horse and leapt into the chasm, which then closed over him.

Alt. trans.:
  • "If the artist does not throw himself into his work, like Curtius into the gulf beneath the Forum, like a soldier against a fortress, without hesitation, and if, in that crater, he does not work like a miner under a fall of rock, if, in short, he envisages the difficulties instead of conquering them one-by-one, following the examples of lovers in fairy-tales who, to win their princesses, struggle against recurring enchantments, the work remains unfinished, it expires in the studio, wher production remains impossible and the artist looks on at the suicide of his own talent." [tr. Raphael (1992)]
  • "If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtius flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one ... he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent." [Source]
  • Original French.
Added on 4-Jun-20 | Last updated 4-Jun-20
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A work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it.

Simone Weil (1909-1943) French philosopher
Gravity and Grace (1947)
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Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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In art, there are only two types of people: revolutionaries and plagiarists. And in the end, doesn’t the revolutionary’s work become official, once the State takes it over?

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) French painter [Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin]
Letter in Le Soir (25 Apr 1895)

Collected in Daniel Guérin, ed., The Writings of a Savage (1996) [tr. Levieux].

Often given as "Art is either plagiarism or revolution," or sometimes "Art is either a revolutionist or a plagiarist." This is often cited from James Huneker, The Pathos of Distance (1913), but there it is given as a paraphrase: "Paul Gauguin has said that in art one is either a plagiarist or a revolutionary."

(Huneker's book elsewhere contains the parallel paraphrase, "Paul Gauguin has said that all artists are either revolutionists or reactionists.")
Added on 2-Apr-20 | Last updated 2-Apr-20
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TANNER: The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Man and Superman, Act 1 (1903)
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Added on 19-Mar-20 | Last updated 19-Mar-20
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An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)
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Added on 14-Feb-20 | Last updated 14-Feb-20
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The art object is always passive in relation to its audience. It is alarmingly active, however, in relation to its creator. Far from being like a receptacle in which you, the artist, drop your ideas, and far from being like a lump of clay which you pummel until it fits your notion of an ashtray, the art object is more like an enthusiastic and ill-trained Labrador retriever which yanks you into traffic.

Annie Dillard (b. 1945) American author
Living by Fiction (1983)
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Often paraphrased, "Art is like an ill-trained Labrador retriever that drags you out into traffic."
Added on 6-Feb-20 | Last updated 6-Feb-20
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I think the author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
Speech, Banquet to Lord Rector, University of Glasgow (19 Nov 1870)
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Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 29-Jan-20
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The greatest works of art speak to us without knowing of us.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
The Consolations of Philosophy, ch. 5 “Consolation for a Broken Heart” (2000)
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Added on 12-Apr-18 | Last updated 12-Apr-18
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I suppose we think euphemistically that all writers write because they have something to say that is truthful and honest and pointed and important. And I suppose I subscribe to that, too. But God knows when I look back over thirty years of professional writing, I’m hard-pressed to come up with anything that’s important. Some things are literate, some things are interesting, some things are classy, but very damn little is important.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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Added on 8-May-17 | Last updated 8-May-17
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If you have a good idea, get it out there. For every idea I’ve realized, I have ten I sat on for a decade till someone else did it first. Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.

Whedon - make - wist_info quote

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
“Dollhouse’s Joss Whedon Answers Your Questions,” Hulu Blog (9 Mar 2009)
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Added on 17-Jun-16 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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I shut my eyes in order to see.

Gauguin - shut my eyes - wist_info quote

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) French painter [Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin]
(Attributed)
Added on 31-May-16 | Last updated 31-May-16
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When I was introduced to art school, everybody was 20, 22, and 25 years old. Many of them had graduated from college. So there I was, and I was about half their height. And I looked at these guys and I thought, “I can’t compete with these birds!” So at the end of the first week I went home. I was so disillusioned. I was a failure at 15. So my uncle, who lived with us occasionally, came up and he said, “You look awful. You look like something the dog had under the front porch. What’s the matter?” “I can’t compete with these guys at school. They draw like Leonardo da Vinci. I’ll never catch up with them.” I felt like it was the end of the world for me. I could draw a little bit. But I couldn’t keep up with the big guys. So I suddenly blurted out and I said, “You can’t make a racehorse out of a pig!” And my uncle looked at me very gently, and he patted me on the knee, and he said, “No. But you can make a very fast pig.” And I realized that’s what it was really all about. I could only be as good as I could be, whatever my limits were. And I learned a second thing: creative work is never competitive.

Chuck Jones (1912-2002) American animator, screenwriter, producer, and director
Interview with Tom Sito, Archive of American Television (17 Jun 1998)
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Added on 7-Oct-15 | Last updated 7-Oct-15
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If the world were clear, art would not exist.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Absurd Creation,” The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
Added on 3-Nov-14 | Last updated 3-Nov-14
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JOYCE: An artist is the magician put among men to gratify — capriciously — their urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought down around him, continuously and contiguously, from Troy to the fields of Flanders. If there is any meaning in any of it, it is in what survives as art, yes even in the celebration of tyrants, yes even in the celebration of nonentities. What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist’s touch? Dust. A forgotten expedition prompted by Greek merchants looking for new markets. A minor redistribution of broken pots. But it is we who stand enriched, by a tale of heroes, of a golden apple, a wooden horse, a face that launched a thousand ships —– and above all, of Ulysses, the wanderer, the most human, the most complete of all heroes — husband, father, son, lover, farmer, soldier, pacifist, politician, inventor and adventurer.

Tom Stoppard (b. 1937) Czech-English playwright and screenwriter
Travesties. Act 1 (1974)

Stoppard called this "the most important" speech in the play.
Added on 3-Oct-14 | Last updated 3-Oct-14
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The pain passes, but the beauty remains.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) French Impressionist artist
(Attributed, 1919)
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Quoted in Sisley Huddleston, Paris Salons, Cafés, Studios (1928). When asked by a young Henri Matisse why he still painted when suffering from painful, twisting arthritis in his hands.
Added on 10-Jun-14 | Last updated 10-Jun-14
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The truth is, as every one knows, that the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man — that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense — has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Blushful Mystery: Art and Sex,” Prejudices: First Series (1919)
Added on 3-Jun-14 | Last updated 2-May-16
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Dead he is not, but departed — for the artist never dies.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Nuremberg,” st. 13
Added on 27-May-14 | Last updated 27-May-14
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Think before you speak is criticism’s motto; speak before you think, creation’s.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“The Raison d’E’tre of Criticism in the Arts,” Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
Added on 12-May-14 | Last updated 12-May-14
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Art is a jealous mistress, and, if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The Conduct of Life, ch. 3 “Wealth” (1860)
Added on 21-Apr-14 | Last updated 5-May-20
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Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
Commencement address, University of the Arts, Philadelphia (2012)
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Added on 2-Jan-14 | Last updated 2-Jan-14
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I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
“…like captured fireflies” (1955)
Added on 2-Jul-09 | Last updated 20-Dec-19
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