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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Here we examine quotes on art by a number of famous artists, thinkers and other figures from history. These quotes on art tackle a wide range of themes, including specific artworks as well as the industry more widely.

Introduction to Artist Quotes about Art

We have collated an extensive list covering many different figures from the past to give some inspirational comments and quotes that could be used in your own articles and essays. Many of these display the creative genius of figures such as Picasso and Van Gogh, whilst others help us to think about things in a new way, with just a few words. Artists tended to be both outspoken, but also deep thinkers, making their opinions particularly interesting.

We have taken artists from different periods, which allows us to understand how views have changed over time, with freedom and expression far more prevalent today than in previous centuries. The way in which people express themselves has also changed, when previously artists would have to be more diplomatic because just a few individuals held control over who received most commissions.

List of Art Quotes

We have provided initially a list of inspirational quotes from key figures, before giving a selection of ten quotes per artist across the rest of the article. We have attemted to make the list relatively diverse in terms of period, gender and background, but likely more artists will be added over time. Giving direct quotes from before the 19th century has proven tricky, as few are documented.

We have also summarised the best quotes from artists below, in a short video, for those who prefer animated, visual content over pure text. The quotes below include many different topics related to the art industry, including where inspiration can be found, what art actually is, and much, much more. We believe this to be one of the most exhaustive lists available, with a wide breadth of artists featured here.

Inspirational Quotes on Art by Famous Artists and Well-Known Figures

"Every artist was first an amateur."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."

Edgar Degas

"Creativity takes courage."

Henri Matisse

"Art is the proper task of life."

Friedrich Nietzsche

"Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known."

Oscar Wilde

"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."

Twyla Tharp

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."


"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."

Pablo Picasso

"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable."

Cesar A. Cruz

"Art is the journey of a free soul."

Alev Oguz

Gustav Klimt Quotes

Gustav Klimt Quotes Gustav Klimt Quotes

"Whoever wants to know something about me - as an artist which alone is significant - they should look attentively at my pictures and there seek to recognise what I am and what I want."

"I can paint and draw. I believe this myself and a few other people say that they believe this too. But I'm not certain of whether it's true."

"There is nothing that special to see when looking at me. I'm a painter who paints day in day out, from morning till evening - figure pictures and landscapes, more rarely portraits."

"On my first days here I did not start work immediately but, as planned, I took it easy for a few days - flicked through books, studied Japanese art a little."

Women Artist Quotes

Women Artist Quotes Women Artist Quotes

"As long as I live I will have control over my being."

Artemisia Gentileschi

"At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can."

Frida Kahlo

"Filling a space in a beautiful way - that is what art means to me."

Georgia O'Keeffe

"My illustrious lordship, i'll show you what a woman can do."

Artemisia Gentileschi

"I don't paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality."

Frida Kahlo

"Women should be someone and not something."

Mary Cassatt

"Real painters understand with a brush in their hand."

Berthe Morisot

"I am not sick. I am broken. But, i am happy to be alive as long as i can paint."

Frida Kahlo

"You will find the spirit of Caesar in this soul of a woman."

Artemisia Gentileschi

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."

Georgia O'Keeffe

"In my opinion the charm and magic of color is inseparable from substance; that is, from texture."

Cecilia Beaux

"How well I remember nearly forty years ago seeing for the first time Degas’s pastels in the window of a picture dealer in the Boulevard Haussman. I would go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it."

Mary Cassatt

Vincent van Gogh Quotes

Vincent van Gogh Quotes Vincent van Gogh Quotes

"I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

"It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures."

"Sometimes I long so much to do landscape, just as one would go for a long walk to refresh oneself, and in all of nature, in trees for instance, I see expression and a soul."

"I lost my job as an art salesman. It was the customer's fault. He wanted to buy the wrong paintings."

"I exaggerate, I sometimes make changes to the subject, but still I don’t invent the whole of the painting; on the contrary, I find it ready-made—but to be untangled— in the real world."

"I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life, the power to create."

"The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech."

"There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."

Leonardo da Vinci Quotes

Leonardo da Vinci Quotes Leonardo da Vinci Quotes

"Learning never exhausts the mind."

"Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art."

"Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence."

"Painting is concerned with all the ten attributes of sight; which are: Darkness, Light, Solidity and Colour, Form and Position, Distance and Propinquity, Motion and Rest."

"It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things."

"Knowledge of the past and of the places of the earth is the ornament and food of the mind of man."

"Tears come from the heart and not from the brain."

Michelangelo Quotes

Michelangelo Quotes Michelangelo Quotes

"A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it."

"A man paints with his brains and not with his hands."

"Genius is eternal patience."

"I have never felt salvation in nature. I love cities above all."

"Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture."

"If in my youth I had realized that the sustaining splendour of beauty of with which I was in love would one day flood back into my heart, there to ignite a flame that would torture me without end, how gladly would I have put out the light in my eyes."

"There is no greater harm than that of time wasted."

"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?"

Claude Monet Quotes

Claude Monet Quotes Claude Monet Quotes

"Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment."

"I must have flowers, always, and always."

"My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece."

"It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly."

"Everyday I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it."

"No one but myself knows the anxiety I go through and the trouble I give myself…"

"People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love."

"The light constantly changes, and that alters the atmosphere and beauty of things every minute."

Edvard Munch Quotes

Edvard Munch Quotes Edvard Munch Quotes

"By painting colours and lines and forms seen in quickened mood I was seeking to make this mood vibrate as a phonograph does. This was the origin of the paintings in The Frieze of Life."

"From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity."

"For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety, which I have tried to express in my art. Without anxiety and illness, I should have been like a ship without a rudder."

"I do not believe in the art which is not the compulsive result of man's urge to open his heart."

"I build a kind of wall between myself and the model so that I can paint in peace behind it. Otherwise, she might say something that confuses and distracts me."

"I have no fear of photography as long as it cannot be used in heaven and in hell."

"In my art I have tried to explain to myself life and its meaning. I have also tried to help others to clarify their lives."

"Painting picture by picture, I followed the impressions my eye took in at heightened moments. I painted only memories, adding nothing, no details that I did not see. Hence the simplicity of the paintings, their emptiness."

"This kind of painting with its large frames is a bourgeois drawing-room art. It is an art dealer's art-and that came in after the civil wars following the French Revolution."

Antoni Gaudi Quotes

Antoni Gaudi Quotes Antoni Gaudi Quotes

"Anything created by human beings is already in the great book of nature."

"Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic."

"Men may be divided into two types: men of words and men of action. The first speaks; the latter act. I am of the second group. I lack the means to express myself adequately. I would not be able to explain to anyone my artistic concepts. I have not yet concretised them. I never had time to reflect on them. My hours have been spent in my work."

"Gothic art is imperfect, only half resolved; it is a style created by the compasses, a formulaic industrial repetition. Its stability depends on constant propping up by the buttresses: it is a defective body held up on crutches....The proof that Gothic works are of deficient plasticity is that they produce their greatest emotional effect when they are mutilated, covered in ivy and lit by the moon."

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Quotes

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Quotes Pierre-Auguste Renoir Quotes

"An artist, under pain of oblivion, must have confidence in himself, and listen only to his real master: Nature."

"Art is about emotion; if art needs to be explained it is no longer art."

"Go and see what others have produced, but never copy anything except nature. You would be trying to enter into a temperament that is not yours and nothing that you would do would have any character."

"If the professional schools should succeed in producing skilled workers trained in the technique of their craft, nothing could be done with them if they had no ideal."

"In painting, as in the other arts, there's not a single process, no matter how insignificant, which can be reasonably made into a formula."

"It took me twenty years to discover painting: twenty years looking at nature, and above all, going to the Louvre."

"The advantage of growing old is that you become aware of your mistakes more quickly."

"The only reward one should offer an artist is to buy his work."

Rembrandt Quotes

Rembrandt Quotes Rembrandt Quotes

"Choose only one master – Nature."

"Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God."

"A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished."

"Life etches itself onto our faces as we grow older, showing our violence, excesses or kindnesses."

"Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can't do it. I just can't do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy."

"Without atmosphere a painting is nothing."

"Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know."

Alphonse Mucha Quotes

Alphonse Mucha Quotes Alphonse Mucha Quotes

"Art exists only to communicate a spiritual message."

"The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges, because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become."

"To talk in my own way to the spirit of the nation, to its eyes which carry thoughts most quickly to the consciousness."

"What is it, Art Nouveau?... Art can never be new."

Eugene Delacroix Quotes

Eugene Delacroix Quotes Eugene Delacroix Quotes

"All painting worth its name, unless one is talking about black and white, must include the idea of color as one of its necessary supports, in the same way that it includes chiaroscuro, proportion, and perspective."

"A picture is nothing but a bridge between the soul of the artist and that of the spectator."

"Criticism is like many other things, it drags along after what has already been said and doesn't get out of its rut."

"Finishing a painting demands a heart of steel: everything requires a decision, and I find difficulties where I least expect them... It is at such moments that one fully realizes one's own weaknesses."

"It is often we come the closest to the essence of an artist... in his or her pocket notebooks and travel sketchbooks... where written comments and personal notes provide an intimate insight into the magical mind of a working artist."

"Remember the enemy of all painting is gray: a painting will almost always appear grayer than it is, on account of its oblique position under the light."

"The first virtue of a painting is that it be a feast for the eyes."

"The more an object is polished or brilliant, the less you see its own color and the more it becomes a mirror reflecting the color of its surroundings."

"The so-called conscientiousness of the majority of painters is only perfection applied to the art of boring."

Pablo Picasso Quotes

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

"Art is the elimination of the unnecessary."

"Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions."

"Everything you can imagine is real."

"He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't. This is an inexorable, indisputable law."

"If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes."

"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them."

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."

"The people who make art their business are mostly imposters."

Frida Kahlo Quotes

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best."

"My painting carries with it the message of pain."

"Painting completed my life."

"They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I paint my own reality."

"To paint is the most terrific thing that there is, but to do it well is very difficult."

"I am not sick. I am broken. But, i am happy to be alive as long as i can paint."

"I cannot speak of Diego as my husband because that term, when applied to him, is an absurdity. He never has been, nor will he ever be, anybody’s husband."

Henri Matisse Quotes

"An artist must possess nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language."

"A young painter who cannot liberate himself from the influence of past generations is digging his own grave."

"Creativity takes courage."

"I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me."

"In modern art, it is undoubtedly to Cézanne that I owe the most."

"Jazz is rhythm and meaning."

"Seek the strongest color effect possible... the content is of no importance."

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted."

"What interests me most is neither still life nor landscape: it is the human figure."

"Why have I never been bored? For more than fifty years I have never ceased to work."

Salvador Dali Quotes

"At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since."

"Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad."

"Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure - that of being Salvador Dali."

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."

"Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings."

"Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them."

"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."

"The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant."

"The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad."

"You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free. Everything that is contradictory creates life."

Paul Cezanne Quotes

"Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet."

"Art is a harmony parallel with nature."

"Don't be an art critic. Paint. There lies salvation."

"A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art."

"For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations."

"Shadow is a colour as light is, but less brilliant; light and shadow are only the relation of two tones."

"Pure drawing is an abstraction. Drawing and colour are not distinct, everything in nature is coloured."

"Drawing and colour are not separate at all; in so far as you paint, you draw. The more the colour harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes."

"The strong experience of nature... is the necessary basis for all conception of art on which rests the grandeur and beauty of all future work."

"The world doesn't understand me and I don't understand the world, that's why I've withdrawn from it."

Edward Hopper Quotes

"More of me comes out when I improvise."

"If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint."

"Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world."

"No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination."

"The trend in some of the contemporary movements in art, but by no means all, seems to deny this ideal and to me appears to lead to a purely decorative conception of painting."

"The only real influence I've ever had was myself."

Jackson Pollock Quotes

"My paintings do not have a center, but depend on the same amount of interest throughout."

"Every good painter paints what he is."

"It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement."

"I don't work from drawings. I don't make sketches and drawings and color sketches into a final painting."

"New needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements... the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture."

"Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."

"The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through."

"Today painters do not have to go to a subject matter outside of themselves. Most modern painters work from a different source. They work from within."

"When I'm painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It's only after a get acquainted period that I see what I've been about. I've no fears about making changes for the painting has a life of its own."

Mark Rothko Quotes

"A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience."

"Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take risks."

"Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness."

"I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions. And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate these basic human emotions."

"I'm not an abstractionist... I'm not interested in relationships of colour or form or anything else."

"Pictures must be miraculous: the instant one is completed, the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended."

"The reason for my painting large canvases is that I want to be intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command."

"There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."

"This would be a distortion of their meaning, since the pictures are intimate and intense, and are the opposite of what is decorative; and have been painted in a scale of normal living rather than an institutional scale."

"We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless."

JMW Turner Quotes

"I don't paint so that people will understand me, I paint to show what a particular scene looks like."

"I have no secret but hard work. This is a secret that many never learn, and they don't succeed because they don't learn it. Labor is the genius that changes the world from ugliness to beauty, and the great curse to a great blessing."

"Light is therefore colour."

"It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create."

"To select, combine and concentrate that which is beautiful in nature and admirable in art is as much the business of the landscape painter in his line as in the other departments of art."

William Morris Quotes

"Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization."

"Artists cannot help themselves; they are driven to create by their nature, but for that nature to truly thrive, we need to preserve the precious habitat in which that beauty can flourish."

"Art made by the people for the people, as a joy to the maker and the user."

"Everything made by man’s hands has a form, which must be either beautiful or ugly; beautiful if it is in accord with Nature, and helps her; ugly if it is discordant with nature, and thwarts her; it cannot be indifferent."

"How can you care about the image of a landscape, when you show by your deeds that you don’t care for the landscape itself?"

"History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created."

"If you cannot learn to love real art, at least learn to hate sham art and reject it."

"I love art, and I love history, but it is living art and living history that I love... It is in the interest of living art and living history that I oppose so-called restoration. What history can there be in a building bedaubed with ornament, which cannot at the best be anything but a hopeless and lifeless imitation of the hope and vigour of the earlier world?"

"I want a real revolution, a real change in society: society, a great organic mass of well-regulated forces used for the bringing-about a happy life for all."

"A man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful."

Albrecht Durer Quotes

"An artist of understanding and experience can show more of his great power and art in small things roughly and rudely done, than many another in a great work. A man may often draw something with his pen on a half sheet of paper in one day... and it shall be fuller of art and better than another's great work whereon he hath spent a whole year's careful labor."

"Art is embedded in nature and they who can extract it, have it."

"And since geometry is the right foundation of all painting, I have decided to teach its rudiments and principles to all youngsters eager for art."

"If a man devotes himself to art, much evil is avoided that happens otherwise if one is idle."

"My father suffered much and toiled painfully all his life, for he had no resources other than the proceeds of his trade from which to support himself and his wife and family."

"Nature holds the beautiful, for the artist who has the insight to extract it. Thus, beauty lies even in humble, perhaps ugly things, and the ideal, which bypasses or improves on nature, may not be truly beautiful in the end."

"The new art must be based upon science - in particular, upon mathematics, as the most exact, logical, and graphically constructive of the sciences."

"There is no man on earth who can give a final judgment on what the most beautiful shape may be. Only God knows."

Jacques Louis David Quotes

"To give a body and a perfect form to one's thought, this - and only this - is to be an artist."

"If the work is poor, the public taste will soon do it justice. And the author, reaping neither glory nor fortune, will learn by hard experience how to correct his mistakes."

"The artist must be a philosopher. Socrates the skilled sculptor, Jean-Jacques [Rousseau] the good musician, and the immortal Poussin, tracing on the canvas the sublime lessons of philosophy, are so many proofs that an artistic genius should have no other guide except the torch of reason."

Diego Rivera Quotes

"As an artist I have always tried to be faithful to my vision of life, and I have frequently been in conflict with those who wanted me to paint not what I saw but what they wished me to see."

"Every good composition is above all a work of abstraction. All good painters know this. But the painter cannot dispense with subjects altogether without his work suffering impoverishment."

"From sunrise to sunset, I was in the forest, sometimes far from the house, with my goat who watched me as a mother does a child. All the animals in the forest became my friends, even dangerous and poisonous ones. Thanks to my goat-mother and my Indian nurse, I have always enjoyed the trust of animals--a precious gift. I still love animals infinitely more than human beings."

"I did not know it then, but Frida had already become the most important fact in my life. And would continue to be, up to the moment she died, 27 years later."

"If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait."

"I've never believed in God, but I believe in Picasso."

"Looking back upon my work today, I think the best I have done grew out of things deeply felt, the worst from a pride in mere talent."

"When art is true, it is one with nature. This is the secret of primitive art and also of the art of the masters — Michelangelo, Cézanne, Seurat and Renoir. The secret of my best work is that it is Mexican."

James Whistler Quotes

"Nature is usually wrong."

"An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision."

"It takes a long time for a man to look like his portrait."

"An artist's career always begins tomorrow."

"The vast majority of English folk cannot and will not consider a picture as a picture, apart from any story which it may be supposed to tell."

"To say of a picture, as is often said in its praise, that it shows great and earnest labour, is to say that it is incomplete and unfit for view."