Quote Series: Lessons From Master Painters

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Looking for quotes from master painters? Photogpedia has compiled over 100 of the best quotes from famous painters to help inspire creatives everywhere.

Whether you’re a photographer, painter, filmmaker, or even a graphic designer, these words of wisdom from some of the greatest painters to ever pick up a brush will inspire you to take your own work to the next level.

So without further ado, here’s our list of art quotes from famous painters:

Art Quotes

Art enables us to find ourselves, and lose ourselves, at the same time.

Thomas Merton

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

Leonardo da Vinci

There is no such thing as an amateur artist as different from a professional artist. There is only good art and bad art.

Paul Cezanne

The video camera dominates art. It’s a bore, it makes everything look a bit the same. If you look at things with a pencil and paper in your hand, you are going to see far more.

David Hockney

Art is what you can get away with.

Andy Warhol

Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.

Louise Nevelson

Exposure and attention make a work famous – the more you talk about it, the more attention it gets, the more validity it achieves.

Andy Warhol

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.

Paul Klee

Art is a line around your thoughts.

Gustav Klimt
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, Famous Painter Quotes
The Kiss, 1907, Gustav Klimt

Defining Art

The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.

Auguste Rodin

Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.

Jean Cocteau

The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it.

Banksy

Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence- a re-concentration… tearing away the veils, the attitudes people acquire of their time and earlier time. Really good artists tear down those veils.

Francis Bacon

Related: Quote Series: What Makes a Good Photograph?

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.

Francisco de Goya

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

Paul Cezanne

If you are only moved by color relationships, you are missing the point. I am interested in expressing the big emotions – tragedy, ecstasy, doom.

Mark Rothko

The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.

Robert Henri

A feeling for things in themselves is much more important than a sense of the pictorial.

Vincent Van Gogh

The modern artist is working with space and time and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.

Jackson Pollock

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

Edgar Degas

A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.

Edgar Degas

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality.

Pablo Picasso

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.

Andre Gide

When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.

Paul Cézanne
The Card Player by Paul Cézanne, Quotes
The Card Players, Early 1890s, Paul Cézanne

The Art Life

A great artist is always before his time or behind it.

George Moore

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

James McNeill Whistler

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.

Salvador Dali

The only real influence I’ve ever had is myself.

Edward Hopper

Since rejection at the Salon, and despite my extremely modest prices, dealers and art lovers are turning their backs on me. It is, above all, very depressing to see the lack of interest shown in an art object which has no market value.

Claude Monet

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.

Alberto Giacometti

I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.

Mark Rothko

All artists are vain, they long to be recognized and to leave something to posterity. They want to be loved, and at the same time, they want to be free. But nobody is free.

Francis Bacon

There’s no retirement for an artist, it’s your way of living so there’s no end to it.

Henry Moore

The artist fills space with an attitude. The attitude never comes from himself alone.

Willem de Kooning

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.

Francis Bacon

Sometimes I open one door and one window or two doors and two windows. I do this only through shrewdness. There is more power in telling little than in telling all.

Mark Rothko

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

Michelangelo

A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others.

Salvador Dali

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

Edward Hopper
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, Art Quotes
Nighthawks, 1942, Edward Hopper

Painting Quotes

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.

Leonardo da Vinci

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

Vincent Van Gogh

Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.

Edgar Degas

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

Edward Hopper

I would like to paint the way a bird sings.

Claude Monet

I don’t paint nature. I am nature.

Jackson Pollock

The greatest masterpieces were once only pigments on a palette.

Henry S. Hoskins

A good painter needs only three colours: black, white and red.

Titian

Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

Pablo Picasso

Every good painter paints what he is.

Jackson Pollock

The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.

Lucian Freud

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

Everything I paint is a portrait, whatever the subject.

Jamie Wyeth

I would rather be the first painter of common things than second in higher art.

Diego Velázquez

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.

Pablo Picasso

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

Mark Rothko

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

Pablo Picasso

The painter will produce pictures of little merit if he takes the works of others as his standard.

Leonardo da Vinci

All painting is an accident. But it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.

Francis Bacon

I think of my pictures as dramas; the shapes in the pictures are the performers.

Mark Rothko

I paint the way I do because I can keep on putting more and more things in – like drama, pain, anger, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas of space. It doesn’t matter if it differs from mine, as long as it comes from the painting, which has its own integrity and intensity.

Willem de Kooning

To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The most interesting painting is one that expresses more of what one thinks than of what one sees.

Mark Rothko

A good painter has two main objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul. The former is easy, the latter hard as he has to represent it by the attitude and movement of the limbs.

Leonardo Da Vinci

My business is to paint what I see, not what I know is there.

J. M. W. Turner
The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner
The Fighting Temeraire, 1839, Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Process

I want to make paintings that look as if they were made by a child.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

Pablo Picasso

Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.

Andy Warhol

There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.

Helen Frankenthaler

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

Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.

Jackson Pollock

An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it.

Paul Valéry

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

Rembrandt

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.

Rembrandt

No, I don’t believe in genius. I believe in freedom. I think anyone can do it. Anyone can be like Rembrandt.

Damien Hirst

I don’t express myself in my paintings. I express my not-self.

Mark Rothko

I use all sorts of things to work with: old brooms, old sweaters, and all kinds of peculiar tools and materials… I paint to excite myself, and make something for myself.

Francis Bacon

A line is a dot that went for a walk.

Paul Klee

We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.

Bob Ross

What you do when you paint, you take a brush full of paint, get paint on the picture, and you have faith.

Willem de Kooning
Interchange by Willem de Koonen, art quotes
Interchange, 1955, Willem de Koonen

Ideas, Concepts and Discovery

Why start a painting before you have a visual concept or idea?

David Leffel

The idea is more important than the object.

Damien Hirst

An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original.

Jean Cocteau

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.

Francis Bacon

The painter must give completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn.

Lucian Freud

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.

Salvador Dali

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

Vincent Van Gogh

Inspiration does exist but it must find you working.

Pablo Picasso

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Andy Warhol

If there’s ever a problem, I film it and it’s no longer a problem. It’s a film.

Andy Warhol

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

My fascination with letting images repeat and repeat – or in film’s case ‘run on’ – manifests my belief that we spend much of our lives seeing without observing.

Andy Warhol

It is necessary to keep one’s compass in one’s eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.

Michelangelo

I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.

Marcel Duchamp

When you begin a picture you often make some pretty discoveries. You must be on guard against these. Destroy the thing, do it over several times. In each destroying of a beautiful discovery, the artist does not really suppress it, but rather condenses it, makes it more substantial. What comes out in the end is the result of discarded finds. Otherwise, you become your own connoisseur.

Pablo Picasso

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye.. it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.

Edvard Munch
The Scream by Edvard Munch
The Scream, 1893, Edvard Munch

The Truth

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.

Pablo Picasso

I’ve always hoped to put things across as directly and rawly as I possibly can, and perhaps if a thing comes across directly, they feel that is horrific. ‘Cause if you say something, even if you say something even directly to somebody about something, they are sometimes offended, even though it is a fact. People tend to be offended by facts or what used to be called truths.

Francis Bacon

Truth and reality in art begin at the point where the artist ceases to understand what he is doing and capable of doing— yet feels in himself a force that becomes steadily stronger and more concentrated.

Henri Matisse

Art-making is not about telling the truth but making the truth felt.

Christian Boltanski

The contemplation of things as they are, without error of confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.

Francis Bacon
Study after Velazquez' Portrait by Francis Bacon
Study after Velazquez’ Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953, Francis Bacon

On Photography

The photograph is the most perfect picture. It does not change; it is absolute, and therefore autonomous, unconditional, devoid of style. Both in its way of informing, and in what it informs of, it is my source.

Gerhard Richter

There is no finer training for the artist than photography. It teaches one the compulsion of art.

Cyd Madsen

A photograph doesn’t tell me how the breeze felt on my skin, how it rippled the grass and sounded in the trees, or how the clouds tumbled and turned.

Jean LeGassick

Photography, for me, brings us back to the actual event more clearly, more directly. Contemplation allows me to imagine my own truth, and the idea that I get of this truth helps me to discover other ideas, and so on… My work becomes a chain of ideas created by the many images that I look at and which I have registered, often on contrasting subjects.

Francis Bacon

But I always liked the fact that you get these totally unacceptable images, but they’re taken by a really expensive photographer, with great light, and in terms of the quality of the photograph it’s a great photograph, but in terms of imagery it’s unacceptable, and I like that contradiction.

Damien Hirst

Now there’s painting on one side and photography – that is, the picture as such – on the other. Photography has almost no reality; it is almost 100 percent picture. And painting always has reality: you can touch the paint; it has presence; but it always yields a picture… I once took some small photographs and then smeared them with paint. That partly resolved the problem, and it’s really good – better than anything I could ever say on the subject.

Gerhard Richter

Photography freed painting from a lot of tiresome chores, starting with family portraits.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

It is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop…

Auguste Rodin

Photography is like having a coke… which may be great when you’re thirsty. Painting is like enjoying a fine, complex wine, which is much better if you are not thirsty.

Jeff Swarts

When I paint from a photograph, conscious thinking is eliminated. I don’t know what I am doing… The photograph has an abstraction of its own, which is not easy to see through.

Gerhard Richter

There are purists in all forms of expression. There are photographers who maintain that their medium has no relation to painting. There are painters who despise photography, although many in the last century have been inspired by it and used it. There are architects who refuse to hang a painting in their buildings maintaining that their own work is a complete expression.

Man Ray

Two of the most frustrated trades are dentists and photographers – dentists because they want to be doctors, and photographers because they want to be painters.

Pablo Picasso

I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.

Man Ray

Related: Snapshot Profile: Man Ray

I have always refused to specialise. I’ve always done many different kinds of things: photos, drawings, sculpture, films, books … In the end, it is hard to have many different talents, because each one wants to monopolise you… All you can do is try to alternate between them, following your instincts… I’m not afraid that I might be wasting my energy… I want to be free.

Brassai

When you see what you express through photography, you realize all the things that can no longer be the objectives of painting. Why should an artist persist in treating subjects that can be established so clearly with the lens of a camera?

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso Quotes
The Weeping Woman, 1937, Pablo Picasso

Quotes from Famous Painters Final Words

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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