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Quotations about the Visual Arts

Updated on August 7, 2015
Colleen Swan profile image

A lover of the written word Colleen has a Master's degree in English literature and enjoys finding unique and poignant quotes

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The audience makes a difference

When Milton Glaser was sixteen he decided to draw a portrait of his mother. … “I was just sitting in front of her one night, and I thought it would be fun to sketch her face, so I got out a piece of paper and a charcoal pencil, … and I realized I hadn't the faintest idea what she looked like. Her image had been fixed in my mind at the age of one or two, and it really hadn't changed since. I was drawing a picture of a woman who no longer existed.”

One thing is interesting to learn in acting, you cannot let it affect you when people laugh at you, if you don't take chances in rehearsals you might just as well get out of the business. You've got to have enough courage to fall on your ass and not pay any attention to what the people are saying. Paul Newman

True art selects and paraphrases, but seldom gives a verbatim translation. Thomas Baily Aldrich

I am so often asked, “Does the audience make any difference?” of course! It is the only reason you bother to be in the theater, in order that tonight it can be better than last night, that you can crack something that you haven’t yet, that this audience will be quieter, that this audience really will at the end think they have had a marvelous experience, and you have told the authors story. And Furthermore by Judi Dench

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story, to vomit the anguish up. James Baldwin

We painters use the same license as poets and madmen. Veronese

John Cage

Quote by John Cage
Quote by John Cage | Source

The seventh wave of genius

As far as I am concerned, a painting speaks for itself. What is the use of giving explanations, when all is said and done? A painter has only one language. Pablo Picasso

An artist conscientiously moves in a direction which for some good reason he takes, putting one work in front of the other with the hope he’ll arrive before death overtakes him. John Cage

I know with certainty that a man’s work is nothing but the long journey to recover, through the detours of art, the two or three simple and great images which first gained access to his heart. Albert Camus

The artist; I mean of course everyone who has tried to create something which was not here before him, with no other tools and material than the noncommercial ones of the human spirit. William Faulkner

I love acting. It is so much more real than life. Oscar Wilde

The true work of art is the one which the seventh wave of genius throws up the beach where the under-tow of time cannot drag it back. Cyril Connolly

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Jacques Barzun

Quote by Jacques Barzun
Quote by Jacques Barzun | Source

The artist creates a part of nature

Walter Pater the art critic asked if he was related to the French painter of the same surname, answered “I hope so, I believe so; I always say so.”

The painter cannot get along without a public; and when the public is absent, what does he do? He invents it, and turning his back on his age, he looks toward the future for what the present denies. Andre Gide

The work of art is a part of nature seen through a temperament. Andre Gide

The genuine painter is as much a dissatisfied person as the revolutionary, yet how diametrically opposed are the products each distills from his dissatisfaction. Eric Hoffer

In this world we must either institute conventional forms of expression or else pretend that we have nothing to express; the choice lies between a mask and a fig-leaf. Santayana



The moral pleasure in art, as well as the moral service that art performs, consists in the intelligent gratification of consciousness. Susan Sontag

Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made. Ted Shawn

Words can be deceitful, but pantomime necessarily is simple, clear and direct. Marcel Marceau

The Country Damsel

Folk art: The Country Damsel: Artist Mike Hunter
Folk art: The Country Damsel: Artist Mike Hunter | Source

Andre Malraux

Quote by Andre Malraux
Quote by Andre Malraux | Source

Great paintings are tomorrows manuscripts

To follow art for the sake of being a great man, and therefore to cast about continually for some means of achieving position or attracting admiration, is the surest way of ending in total extinction. John Ruskin

Bad artists always admire each other’s work. Oscar Wilde

In painting, the most brilliant colors spread at random and without design, will give far less pleasure than the simplest outline of a figure. Aristotle

What is more natural in a democratic world than that we should begin to measure the stature of a work of art; especially of a painting, by how widely and how well it is reproduced. Daniel J Boorstin

Every artist was first an amateur. Emerson

An artist is a man of action, whether he creates a personality, invents an expedient, or finds the issue of a complicated situation. Joseph Conrad

Painters use red like spice. Derek Harman

An artist is only someone unrolling and digging out and excavating the areas normally accessible to normal people everywhere, and exhibiting them as a sort of scarecrow to show people what can be done with themselves. Lawrence Durrell

The beautiful manikin

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The pleasure is completing the picture

If you see a blue tree, then make it blue. Paul Gauguin



Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing. Michael Chabot

Painting is the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to a critic. Ambrose Bierce

Whenever I go to an opera, I leave my sense and reason at the door with my half guinea, and deliver myself up to my eyes and my ears. Lord Chesterfield

The artist finds a greater pleasure in painting than in having completed the picture. Seneca

Artwork and science creates a balance to material life and enlarge the world of living experience. It leads to a more profound concept of life, because in itself is a profound expression of feeling. Hans Hoffman

He is made of music, if you cut him open melody would pour out. Danny Donoghue

Harmony

Poster art: Harmony
Poster art: Harmony | Source

The artist creates for all of mankind

There is a way of being an artist that goes so deep and is so much a matter of origin and destinies that no longing seems to it sweeter and more worth knowing than longing after the bliss of the commonplace. Thomas Mann

The expressionist, that inner man who becomes explosive, who pours the lava of his boiling mood over all things, to insist that the chance form in which the crust hardens is the new, the coming, the valid outline of existence, is simply a desperate man. Rainer M. Rilke



Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter. Oscar Wilde

Art must take reality by surprise. It takes those moments which are for us merely a moment, plus a moment, and arbitrarily transforms them into a special series of moments held together by a major emotion. Francoise Sagan

Movie stars operate in ether as intimate to us as dreams. That’s why movie stars often seem as close or closer to us than loved ones. Peter Rainer

One picture in ten thousand, perhaps, ought to live in the applause of mankind, from generation to generation until the colors fade and blacken out of site or the canvas rot entirely away. Nathaniel Hawthorne

Poets, not otherwise than philosophers, painters, sculptors, and musicians, are, in one sense, the creators, and in another, the creations of their age. Shelley

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Agnes Repplier

Quote by Agnes Repplier
Quote by Agnes Repplier | Source

The stage is the actors canvas

Theatre takes place all the time wherever one is and art simply facilitates persuading one this is the case. John Cage

An actor can remember his briefest notice well into senescence and long after he has forgotten his phone number and where he lives. Jean Kerr

The painter isn’t particularly keen on getting a thing done, as you call it. He gets his pleasure out of doing it, playing with it, fooling with it, if you like. The mere completion of it is an incident. William Mc Fee

A man may be an artist, though he has not his tools about him. Thomas Fuller



The acting that one sees upon the stage does not show how human beings comport themselves in crises, but how actors think they ought to. It is thus, like poetry and religion, a device for gladdening the heart with what is palpably not true. H. L. Mencken

The humblest painter is a true scholar; and the best scholars, they are of nature. William Hazlitt

Architecture has always been the outward expression of an inner inspiration. Prince Charles.

The man who would emancipate art from discipline and reason is trying to elude rationality, not merely in art, but in all existence. George Santayana

Great art is precisely that which never was, nor will be taught, it is preeminently and finally the expression of the spirits of great men. John Ruskin

Aphrodite

Topical art: Aphrodite
Topical art: Aphrodite | Source

Van Gogh

When Van Gogh lived at home as an adolescent he began to create various sketches and drawings. Later his mother discarded the efforts. One can only imagine the worth of such early work in today’s market.

Theater is often graceful exaggeration

In the very nature of acting, there is an essential gaiety. If it isn't lighthearted, it becomes absurd. You can achieve every shade of seriousness by means of ease, and none of them without it. Bertolt Brecht

A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can’t be much good. T. S. Eliot

How vain painting is; we admire the realistic depiction of objects which in their original state we don't admire at all. Pascal

We must not subject him who creates to the desires of the multitude. It is rather, his creation that must become the multitude’s desire. Saint Exupery

The theater, when all is said and done, is not life in miniature, but life enormously magnified, life hideously exaggerated. H. L. Mencken

Every now and then when you’re on stage, you hear the best sound a player can hear. It’s a sound you can’t get in movies. It is the sound of a wonderful deep silence that means you've hit them where they live. Shelly Winters

There is a desire of property in the sanest and best men, which nature seems to have implanted as conservative of her works, and which is necessary to encourage and keep alive the arts. Walter Savage Landor

He is primarily one who has faith in himself. He does not respond the normal stimuli; he is neither a drudge nor a parasite. He lives to express himself and in so doing enriches the world. Henry Miller

Pop art

Pop art
Pop art | Source

Modern and pop

Pop art is a Mishmash of imagery, crass conceptions and snobbery that has proved the world has a dreadful shortage of artists. Dick Emery

A seventeenth century painting can be modern because the living eye finds it fresh and new. A modern painting can be outdated because it was a product of the moment and not of the time. Marya Mannes

When I listen to learned historians and critics praising pop-art, I wonder what brought about their fear of being truthful. I gave my kids some food wrappers, time magazine, a tube of glue, and scissors. They created a masterpiece. Frank Muir

Abstract flower and landscape painting of Mario Zampedroni

Susan Sontag

Quote by Susan Sontag
Quote by Susan Sontag | Source

The joy is in the diversity

The painter who draws by practice and judgment of the eye without the use of reason is like the mirror which reproduces within itself all the objects which are set opposite to it without knowledge of the same. Leonardo Da Vinci

The stage play is a trial, not a deed of violence. The soul is opened, like the combination of a safe, by means of a word. Jean Giraudoux

Every man’s work, whether it is literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself, and the more he tries to conceal himself the more clearly will his character appear in spite of him. Samuel Butler

The finest always has its ingredient of impudence, its flouting of established authority, so that it may substitute its own authority and its own enlightenment. Ben Shahn

The obsequious brush curtails truth in deference to the canvas which is narrow. Tagore

An opera may be allowed to be extravagantly lavish in its decorations, as its only design is to gratify the senses and keep up an indolent attention in the audience. Joseph Addison

Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Nathaniel Hawthorne

We owe the invention of the arts to deranged imagination. The caprices of painters, poets and musicians are only a moderated instability to express their madness. Cervantes

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William Faulkner

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.

Performance involves communion between actor and audience

The art of the clown is more profound than we think; it is neither tragic nor comic. It is the comic mirror of tragedy and the tragic mirror of comedy. Unknown

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. Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that’s printed about him. Orson Welles

It is the best of all trades, to make songs, and the second best to sing them. H. Belloc

Art is the response to the demand for entertainment, for the stimulation of our senses and imagination, and truth enters into it only as it sub-serves these ends. George Santayana

A little amateur painting in watercolor shows the innocent and quiet mind. Robert Louis Stevenson

On the stage it is always now; the personages are standing on that razor-edge, between the past and the future, which is the essential character of conscious being. Thornton Wilder

The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some adventurers on behalf of us all. John Updike

Somerset Maugham
Somerset Maugham | Source

Which visual art form do you believe is the most timeless?

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Quotes by Somerset Maugham

  • Just as the painter thinks with his brush and paints the novelist thinks with his story.
  • Drama is make-believe. It does not deal with truth but with effect.
  • The audience is not the least important actor in the play and if it will not do its allotted share the play falls to pieces.
  • The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run down a hill.
  • The artist’s egoism is outrageous; it must be; he by nature a solipsist and the world exists only for him to exercise upon it his powers of creation.
  • By the time an actor knows how to act any sort of part he is often too old to act any but a few.
  • The artist should never allow his happiness to interfere with his work, for his work is more important than his happiness. Sourced from: The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings

I hope you have enjoyed reading these quotes and extracts. Please enter your choice in the poll.

© 2014 Colleen Swan

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    • profile image

      dynoequip 3 years ago from www.dynoequip.com

      Nice.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Many great quotes. This one will stay with me: "Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter." Thanks!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      You've covered so much here and obviously researched it all thoroughly, creating an interesting concoction of all aspects of art.

      I think the master of quotes was Oscar Wilde; I also loved this one from Gide: 'The work of art is a part of nature seen through a temperament.' MsDora's picked a good one too; they are saying almost the same I think.

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