Art Quotes & Famous Artists Quotes

The mind of the creative genius is a strange and wonderful thing. Not only have great artist shaped culture and the human experience for centuries,  but the artists themselves also have interesting insights as to why they do what they do. Here, we’ll share inspirational art quotes from famous artists.

Perhaps these words will help spur your own thoughts about art, and inspire you to pick up your paintbrush grab some oil paints or acrylic paints and create!

“Creativity takes courage.”

— Henri Matisse

To those who rarely create art, it may seem as though the process of creation is easy and comes without any challenges. But, for those of us who know that creating a work of art is rarely simple, this quote by Henri Matisse will likely resonate.

Art as Dialogue

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

Artist Edward Hopper
— Edward Hopper

Some artists see art as a type of dialogue like Edward Hopper did. Although art is oftentimes a visual medium, it is capable of communicating as effectively as words. (Or, in Edward Hopper’s case, more effectively than words!)


“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
— Georgia O’Keeffe

This art quote by Georgia O’Keeffe tells us she too found art capable of expressing what she wanted to say better than words themselves.

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

Pablo Picasso
— Pablo Picasso

Another great artist, Pablo Picasso, likened his paintings to maintaining a diary. The way he describes substituting a paintbrush for a pen demonstrates how similar the branches of the arts can be. It’s not so much about being a painter or a writer; they are two beasts of the same species. We could also guess that creativity of all types essentially draws from the same well of genius.


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

Vincent van Gogh
— Vincent van Gogh

This art quote by Vincent van Gogh almost makes you think he was in a trance-like state when he created his artwork. Rather than sharing emotions using language, his emotions funneled directly into his paintbrush and the strokes he made. 

The Artist’s Purpose

Other artists have described the purpose of their work rather eloquently. As you might expect, each artist viewed their purpose as uniquely as they created their art.

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

Alberto Giacometti
— Alberto Giacometti

Giacometti was known for his sculptures, but he created all kinds of artwork. This quote of his aptly describes what he was able to accomplish with his pieces.  


“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso
— Pablo Picasso

The nature of this art quote by Picasso makes one think creating art served as a kind of renewing or cleansing experience for him. It’s interesting to think of the act of creation as one that reveals a cleaner or less aged version of oneself. 


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

James McNeill Whistler
— James McNeill Whistler


It seems as though James McNeill Whistler is saying the value found in art is not the work that goes into it but the sharing of a perspective, through a visual medium. This kind of perspective is, one that can last forever.

Art as a Spiritual Experience

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.”

Piet Mondrian
— Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian had a peculiar take on it. He classifies creating art almost as a spiritual experience, as though there is a greater Being doing the work. It is an incredibly passive stance. 

Although, in a way, it echoes what these other famous artists have said.:

“Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God.”

Rembrandt van Rijn
— Rembrandt van Rijn

Both nature and God were highly influential during the years Rembrandt created art, and they continue to influence art and artists to this day

Art Quotes on the Subjects of Artists

Other artists have described their subjects. Of course, it would be difficult to take what they say literally:

“Every good painter paints what he is.”

Jackson Pollock
— Jackson Pollock

If we were to take this quote literally, we would have to infer that Pollock is a series of paint splatters, and we know this is not the case.

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”


Frida Kahlo
— Frida Kahlo

And based on this quote by Frida, Kahlo, we would imagine her to be something much more macabre.

Origins of Art

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

Paul Cezanne
— Paul Cézanne

Cézanne describes emotion as a necessary element involved in the creation of art. By using the term “art,”, Cézanne broadens the topic beyond just painting, although he was a very famous painter. Instead, he includes all forms of creative genius. If they all draw from the same well, it must be deep water made of intense feelings, as light and dark as the end results.

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