The true musician is attuned to a fairer harmony than that of the lyre... for he truly
has in his own life a harmony of words and deeds arranged in the Dorian mode. Such a one
makes me joyous with the sound of his voice, so eager am I in drinking in his words.
Plato (428-347 B.C.), Laches,188d
Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet,
act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here,
he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face
has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all
that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of
beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from
it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely
established in the stainless shrine... Never did eye see the sun unless it had first
become sunlike, and never can the soul have vision of the First Beauty unless itself
Plotinus (204-270 A.D.), The Enneads, I.6.9(250 A.D.)
Poetry and painting are rooted in the same law,
The work of heaven and of the first cause.
Su Tung-po (1036-1101)
As I was painting this picture, I became the springtime river. The flowers of the river
opened at my hand's whim; the waters of the river flowed with the rhythm of my being.
In the lofty pavilion perched above the river, the painting in my hand, I cry out the
name of Tzu-mei. Laughter is mixed with my cries. Waves and clouds suddenly arise.
Unrolling the painting once again, I plunge into the vision of the divine.
Shih-t'ao (1641-1717), Remarks on Painting(1730)
Painting, like poetry, selects in the universe whatever she deems most appropriate
to her ends. She assembles in a single fantastic personage, circumstances and features
which nature distributes among many individuals. From this combination, ingeniously
composed, results that happy imitation by virtue of which the artist earns the title
of inventor and not of servile copyist.
Francisco Goya (1746-1828), Diario de Madrid(February 6, 1799)
It is with art as with love: How can a man of the world,with all his distractions,
keep the inwardness which an artist must possess if he hopes to attain perfection?
That inwardness which the spectator must share if he is to understand the work as
the artist wishes and hopes... Believe me, talents are like virtues; either you must
love them for their own sake or renounce them altogether. And they are only recognized
and rewarded when we have practised them in secret, like a dangerous mystery."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
Real beauty in the arts is eternal and would be accepted at all periods; but it wears
the dress of its century: something of that dress clings to it, and woe to the works
which appear in periods when the general taste is corrupted.
Delacroix (1798-1863), Journal(October 12, 1859)
Every work of art causes the receiver to enter into a certain kind of relationship both
with him who produced the art, and with all those who, simultaneously, previously, or
subsequently, receive the same artistic impression.
Art is a human activity that one man consciously by means of certain external signs,
hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are touched by these
feelings and also experience them.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), What is Art?Ch. V (1898)
The artist does not draw what he sees, but what he must make others see. Only when he
no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things. A picture is first
of all a product of the imagination of the artist; it must never be a copy. If then
two or three natural accents can be added, obviously no harm is done. The air we see
in the paintings of the old masters is never the air we breathe.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Les Mots de Degas(1918)
The Louvre is the book in which we learn to read. We must not, however, be satisfied
with retaining the beautiful formulas of our illustrious predecessors. Let us go forth
to study beautiful nature, let us try to free our mids from them, let us strive to express
ourselves according to our personal temperaments. Time and reflection, moreover, little
by little modify our vision, and at last comprehension comes to us...
Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), letter to Emile Bernard(Aix, 1905)
An artist worthy of the name should express all the truth of nature, not only the exterior
truth, but also, and above all, the inner truth.
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), On Art and Artist,Ch. IX
If you want to know how to do a thing you must first have a complete desire to do that thing.
Then go to kindred spirits others who have wanted to do that thing and study
their ways and means, learn from their successes and failures and add your quota. Thus you
may acquire from the experience of the race. And with this technical knowledge you may go
forward, expressing through the play of forms the music that is in you and which is very
personal to you. Every man who has shown the world the way to beauty, to true culture, has been
a rebel, a "universal" without patriotism, without home, who has found his people elsewhere.
Robert Henri (1865-1929), The Art Spirit(1923)
Every artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of his age.
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Concerning the Spiritual in Art(1914)
I now abandon work. It penetrates so deeply and so gently into me, I feel it and it gives me
confidence in myself without effort. Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will
possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one.
I am a painter.
Paul Klee (1879-1940), The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898-1918(Tunisia, April 16, 1914)
The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), The Transformation of Nature in Art(1934)
Every work of art reaches man in his inner powers. It reaches him more profoundly and
insidiously than any rational proposition, either cogent demonstration or sophistry.
For it strikes him with two terrible weapons, Intuition and Beauty, and at the single root
in him of all his energies... Art and Poetry awaken the dreams of man, and his longings,
and reveal to him some of the abysses he has in himself.
Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), The Responsibility of the Artist(1960)
Whoever accepts the higher mission of art and comes nearer and nearer to it through his
creative activity, will then go on from art to the Spirit deep within his own self...
The philosophic search for enlightenment and the artist's search for perfection of work can
meet and unite.
Art can be a path to spiritual enlightenment but not to complete and lasting enlightenment.
It can be born out of, and can give birth itself to, only Glimpses. For art is a search for
beauty, which by itself is not enough. Beauty must be supported by virtue and both require
wisdom to guide them.
Paul Brunton (1898-1981), Notebooks,Vol. 9, Part 2: The Arts in Culture, 1.154, 3.58, 3.80 (1987)
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