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Famous Art Quotes from Celebrated Artists

Vincent Van Gough quote

I’ve been keeping this list since I was a child, really. Whenever I head or read something related to drawing, painting or creativity in general I would write it down and come back to it when I felt uninspired.

Every artist, beginner or professional, will need a little pick-me-up every so often, to get over a bad piece of work they thought would turn out well or overcome artist’s block. Here are my 101 favourite inspirational quotes, from painters to philosophers, from scientists to photographers.

Thomas Merton quote "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time"

Art Quotes by Artists

Becoming an artist, like becoming a writer, can be a daunting prospect. After all, the great Van Gogh barely sold any of his paintings in his lifetime.

However, whether you’re interested in acrylic paint, pottery, sculpture, watercolor, or fabric printing, it’s never too late to follow your passion and become an artist.

These art quotes are from some of history’s most famous artists.

Whether they were painting at the height of the Renaissance period, or are still wowing the world with their art today, they all have the same things in common: a distinct creative process, facing criticism, and a love of art.

Whatever media these artists work in, get inspired by their commitment to making the world a more beautiful place.

Edgar Degas quote "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see"

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“If I close my eyes, I see things better than with my eyes open.” – Henri Matisse

“Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” – Andy Warhol

“I shut my eyes in order to see.” – Paul Gauguin

Gustav Klimt quote "Art is a line around your thoughts"

“Art is a line around your thoughts.” – Gustav Klimt

“Art is coming face to face with yourself.” – Jackson Pollock

“I must have flowers, always, and always.” – Claude Monet

“The public wants to understand and learn in a single day, a single minute, what the artist has spent years learning.” – Paul Gauguin

“I couldn’t give you something mediocre even if that’s all you asked for.” – Michelangelo

“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.” – Paul Cezanne

“Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.” – Rembrandt

Michelangelo art quote "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I accomplish"

“Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I accomplish.” – Michelangelo

“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.” – Claude Monet

“The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists.. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.” – Banksy

“I paint flowers so they will not die.” – Frida Kahlo

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Art is what you can get away with.” – Andy Warhol

“I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo

Bansky quote "Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable"

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” – Banksy

“To draw you must close your eyes and sing.” – Pablo Picasso

“Art is to console those who are broken by life.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy —the joy of being Salvador Dalí— and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things is this Salvador Dalí going to accomplish today?” – Salvador Dalí

“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

“What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It’s not what you see that is art; art is the gap.” – Marcel Duchamp

Henri Matisse art quote "Creativity takes courage"

“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” – Vincent Van Gogh

“One eye sees, the other feels.” – Paul Klee

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Everything you can imagine is real.” – Pablo Picasso

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso quote "Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth"

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso

Quotes about Painting

For many of us, painting as a child is our first encounter with art. It’s fun and it’s messy, and offers a creative outlet as we start to explore the world for ourselves.

Painting is an incredibly therapeutic activity and offers an emotional release, so it is often used as a means of therapy and rehabilitation from trauma.  It involves focusing all your attention on the creation of an image, which is proven to relieve stress, lessen muscle soreness, decrease tension headaches, and more.

“The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” – Jackson Pollock

Claude Monet quote "I’m not performing miracles, I’m using up and wasting a lot of paint"

“I’m not performing miracles, I’m using up and wasting a lot of paint.” – Claude Monet

“If you understand a painting beforehand, you might as well not paint it.” – Salvador Dalí

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” – Pablo Picasso

“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” – Claude Monet

“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.” – Henri Matisse

“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Edward Hopper art quote "If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint"

“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” – Edward Hopper

“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing.” – Jackson Pollock

“A simple line painted with the brush can lead to freedom and happiness.” – Joan Miro

“Painting must be fertile. It must give birth to a world… it must fertilize the imagination.” – Joan Miro

“Painter, paint!” – Salvador Dalí

“Use your blood to paint. Keep painting until you faint. Keep painting until you die.” – Yoko Ono

“Painting something that defies the law of the land is good. Painting something that defies the law of the land and the law of gravity at the same time is ideal.” – Banksy

Marcel Duchamp quote "Painting is a language of its own. You cannot interpret one form of expression with another form of expression"

“Painting is a language of its own. You cannot interpret one form of expression with another form of expression.” – Marcel Duchamp

“Painting is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see.” – Philip Guston

“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through.” – Jackson Pollock

“If you hear a voice within you saying, ”You are not a painter,” then by all means paint… and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” – Frida Kahlo

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.” – Edgar Degas

“If I paint something, I don’t want to have to explain what it is.” – Bob Ross

Keith Haring quote "The best reason to paint is that there is not reason to paint"

“The best reason to paint is that there is not reason to paint.” – Keith Haring

“Intensity is all that matters in painting.” – John Piper

“There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“You can’t learn techniques and then try to become a painter. Techniques are a result.” – Jackson Pollock

“It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well-painted. This is the essence of academicism.” – Mark Rothko

“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.” – Henri Matisse

“I’m never finished with my paintings; the further I get, the more I seek the impossible and the more powerless I feel.” – Claude Monet

Rembrandt art quote "Without atmosphere a painting is nothing"

“Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.” – Rembrandt

“I’m in fine fettle and fired with a desire to paint.” – Claude Monet

“The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to.” – Frida Kahlo

“I started painting as a hobby when I was little. I didn’t know I had any talent. I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I do.” – Bob Ross

“One must spoil as many canvases as one succeeds with.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” – Edgar Degas

“A blank canvas…has unlimited possibilities.” – Stephanie Perkins

Vincent Van Gough quote "I dream my painting and I paint my dream"

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Photography Quotes

Photography is definitely the form of artistic expression that has been around for the least amount of time, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t had a profound impact on the art world and the way we experience art.

While photos were once about taking portraits or landscapes, now you can use this media to capture anything you want to remember.

Photographs are powerful reminders you of special events or days, and bring us back to the feelings and sounds of the moments they capture.

With the availability of smartphones and their tiny, high quality cameras, photography is actually one of the most accessible means of creating and enjoying art. So here are some classic photography quotes in case that’s how you like to be artistic.

Dorothy Lange quote "Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still"

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at the picture for a second and think of it all your life.” – Joan Miro

“A photograph shouldn’t be just a picture, it should be a philosophy.” – Amit Kalantri

“The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness.” – Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Irving Penn quote "A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective"

“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.” – Irving Penn

“To me, photography must suggest, not insist or explain.” – Brassai

“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.” – Andre Kertesz

“A camera alone does not make a picture. To make a picture you need a camera, a photographer and above all a subject. It is the subject that determines the interest of the photograph.” – Man Ray

“A good photographer records; a great photographer reveals.” – Skylar Reid

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” – Jim Richardson

John Berger quote "What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time"

“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.” – John Berger

“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy

“The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.” – Paul Strand

“A very subtle difference can make the picture or not.” – Annie Leibowitz

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” – Ansel Adams

“A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.” – Diane Arbus

“Never worry about being obsessive. I like obsessive people. Obsessive people make great art.” – Susan Sontag

Alfred Stieglitz quote "Photography is my passion, the search for truth, my obsession"

“Photography is my passion, the search for truth, my obsession.” – Alfred Stieglitz

“A picture is a poem without words.” – Horace

“It is a cruel, ironical art, photography. The dragging of captured moments into the future; moments that should have been allowed to be evaporate into the past; should exist only in memories, glimpsed through the fog of events that came after. Photographs force us to see people before their future weighed them down.” – Kate Morton

“A photograph shouldn’t be just a picture, it should be a philosophy.” – Amit Kalantri

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” – Ansel Adams

Karl Lagerfeld quote "What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce"

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” – Karl Lagerfeld

Quotes about Art and Artists

It’s become something of a cliche that all artists are misunderstood, when in fact writers, philosophers, scientists, and even artists themselves, have spent a great deal of time trying to understand what makes them tick.

Why are some people more creative than others? Why do some people gravitate towards certain artistic media and not others? And what inspires them? Only the artists themselves know that answer to some of these questions.

Take a look at these fascinating quotes about artists and find out more about what motivates them, and what art can tell us about the person who created it.

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

“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

T.S. Eliot quote "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality"

“The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.” – T.S. Eliot

“All artists are willing to suffer for their work. But why are so few prepared to learn to draw?” – Banksy

“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” – Auguste Rodin

“A true artist is not one who is inspired but one who inspires others.” – Salvador Dalí

“The artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“To be an artist is to believe in life.” – Henry Moore

Peter O'Toole quote "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere"

“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” – Peter O’Toole

“You might as well ask an artist to explain his art, or ask a poet to explain his poem. It defeats the purpose. The meaning is only clear thorough the search.” – Rick Riordan

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“A work is finished when an artist realizes his intentions.” – Rembrandt

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” – Emile Zola

“The modern artist… is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.” – Jackson Pollock

Paul Cezanne quote "The most seductive thing about art is the personality of the artist himself"

“The most seductive thing about art is the personality of the artist himself.” – Paul Cezanne

“An artist discovers his genius the day he dares not to please.” – Andre Malraux

“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” – James Whistler

“Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.” – Edgard Varese

“The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist.” – Eric Gill

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” – Charles Bukowski

Albert Einstein art quote "Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy"

“Art is standing with one hand extended into the universe and one hand extended into the world, and letting ourselves be a conduit for passing energy.” – Albert Einstein

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” – Neil Gailman

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success.” – Henri Matisse

“The great artist is the simplifier.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“In the mind of every artist there is a masterpiece.” – Kai Green

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” – Robert Hughes

Ralph Waldo Emmerson quote "Every artist was first an amateur"

“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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

“An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.” – J.D. Salinger

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” – Emile Zola

“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.” – Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist. “ – St. Francis of Assisi

Wassily Kandinsky quote "The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul"

“The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.” – Wassily Kandinsky

“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.” – George Santayana

“Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons.” – Al Hirschfield

“An artist is someone who produces things that people don’t need to have but that he – for some reason – thinks it would be a good idea to give them.” – Andy Warhol

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” – Francis Bacon

Funny and Amusing Art Quotes

One of the best things about art is that we don’t have to take it too seriously! Art can make us think deeply, remember special times, make us cry… but it can also make us laugh.

Paintings, photographs, and sculptures are just as likely to lift our spirits as they are to send us into fits of giggles!

These quotes are all about seeing the funny side of making art, looking at art, and being an artist.

Whether you’re a connoisseur or don’t know your acrylics from your watercolors, you’ll still find something to make you laugh here!

Groucho Marx quote "Art is art, isn't it? And water is water and east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like apple-sauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does"

“Art is art, isn’t it? And water is water and east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like apple-sauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” – Groucho Marx

“What is an artist? For every thousand people there’s nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky bastard who’s the artist.” – Tom Stoppard

“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

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will spark off a revolution.” – Paul Cezanne

Oscar Wilde quote "Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious"

“Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” – Oscar Wilde

“There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can’t stand Picasso, those who can’t stand Raphael, and those who have never heard of either.” – John White

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” – Bob Ross

“There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk.” – Charles Dickens

“Van Gogh would have sold more than one painting if he’d put tigers in them.” – Tom Hobbes

“I would never have taken up painting if women did not have breasts.” – Pierre Auguste Renoir

Fran Lebowitz quote "If you have a burning restless urge to paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass"

“If you have a burning restless urge to paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.” – Fran Lebowitz

“An amateur is an artist who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint. A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.” – Ben Shahn

“Any fool can paint a picture, but it takes a wise man to be able to sell it.” – Samuel Butler

“A sculpture is just a drawing you fall over in the dark.” – Al Hirschfield

“Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves they have a better idea.” – John Ciardi

“Rembrandt painted 700 pictures. Of these 3,000 are in existence.” – Wilhelm Bode

Mark Twain art quote "If the old masters had labelled their fruit, one wouldn't be so likely to mistake pears for turnips"

“If the old masters had labelled their fruit, one wouldn’t be so likely to mistake pears for turnips.” – Mark Twain

“He was our greatest living painter, until he died.” – Mark Twain

“The more you look at modern art exhibits, the more everything begins to look like an exhibit, including the attendant’s chair and the fire extinguisher.” – Brian Sewell

“I hate flowers. I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

“Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.” – John Singer Sargent

“Treat a work of art like a prince: let it speak to you first.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Bob Ross quote "I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to trees and animals. That’s okay though; I have more fun than most people"

“I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to trees and animals. That’s okay though; I have more fun than most people.” – Bob Ross

We hope these art quotes have inspired you to look at art in new ways, or even try doing something artistic yourself. Whether you love painting, sculpting, sewing, printing, or taking photographs, unleash your creativity and have fun!
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