45 Famous What Is Art Quotes By Famous Artists

What does art mean to you?

Reina Piparaiya

11 months ago|10 min read


We are constantly following up on different painters, designers, and creators, and the one thing that we have noticed is that each one has an answer to this question: What is Art?

Art is subjective and is perceived differently by different people. What a painting means to one person may entice a completely different response from someone else. 

Therefore, it is crucial (and honestly, pretty interesting) to find out what art means to artists.

Here is a list of our favorite What is Art quotes, and maybe they will help you discover what art is to you!

1. “What is art? Art grows out of grief and joy, but mainly grief. It is born of people’s lives.” - Edvard Munch

What Is Art Quotes

This is the Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch’s answer to the question. His definition of art highlights his own life experiences since most of his art is based on his illness and mental conditions.

2. “Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding.” - Marc Chagall

What Is Art Quotes

Chagall’s definition can be seen in his work as well, as many of his pieces blend humans with nature, using earth tones with modern concepts.

3. “Art is either a plagiarist or a revolutionary.” - Paul Gauguin

What Is Art Quotes

This is one of the most famous what is art quotes said by French Post-Impressionist artist Gaugin.

4. “Art is harmony.” - Georges Seurat

What Is Art Quotes

This is what the French painter said in a letter to Maurice Beaubourg sent in 1890.

5. “To me, the thing that art does for life is to clean it – to strip it to form.” - Robert Frost

What Is Art Quotes

The poet wrote this quote, which can be seen in Fire and Ice: The Art and Thoughts of Robert Frost.

6. “Filling a space in a beautiful way. That's what art means to me” - Georgia O'Keeffe

We love this what is art quote by O'Keeffe, said to Art News in 1977.

7. “To give a body and a perfect form to one’s thought, this—and only this—is to be an artist” - Jacques-Louis David

Another great quote said by Neoclassical French Painter Jacques-Louis David, defining what an artist is.

8. “Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos” - Saul Bellow

The American novelist connected art as an achievement, which could have something to do with his achievements as a receiver of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts.

9. “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth” - Pablo Picasso

What Is Art Quotes

Picasso wrote this in a letter to Marius de Zayas in 1923, which is now another one of the most popular what is art quotes by any artist.

10. “I don’t think art is elite or mysterious. I don’t think anybody can separate art from politics. The intention to separate art from politics is itself a very political intention” - Ai Weiwei

Weiwei is known for using his art as a form of expression on his stance regarding topics such as democracy and human rights, which can be reflected in his definition of art.

11. “All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography” - Federico Fellini

The Italian film director said this to Atlantic Monthly in 1965, describing his understanding of art. He is one of the most celebrated filmmakers in history.

12. “Art is a habit-forming drug” - Marcel Duchamp

What Is Art Quotes

Known for starting the anti-art movement, which brought attention to revolutionary forms of art, Duchamp said this about art.

13. “Art is a revolt, a protest against extinction” - André Malraux

“A protest against extinction”, says novelist, theorist, and minister of cultural affairs André Malraux.

14. “Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use” - Frank Lloyd Wright

American Architect Frank Wright’s what is art quote defines his style and philosophy, which was to design considering the harmony between humanity and the environment, which brought about the concept of “organic architecture”.

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

Giacometti is known for his sculptures, many of which were modeled after existing objects like humans and animals, connected through his use of cubism and surrealism. His what is art quote can connect back to his art style.

16. “Art is not a thing, it is a way” - Elbert Hubbard

What Is Art Quotes

This What Is Art quote which can be found in the 1908 volume of “Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Teachers”, and was said by American writer Elbert Hubbard.

17. “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known” - Oscar Wilde

Wilde wrote this in his essay titled The Soul of Man Under Socialism, defining the intensity and individuality of art through his own what is art quote.

18. “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” - Twyla Tharp

What Is Art Quotes

As one of the most renowned contemporary dancers, Tharp uses dance as a way to “run away without leaving home”.

19. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time” - Thomas Merton

The American writer and monk’s what is art quote can be found in his book, No Man Is An Island, a collection of essays discussing relationships with self, society, and God.

20. “Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor” - André Gide

French author and Nobel Prize winner André Gide says this in his what is art quote, discussing the work and effort put into creating a great piece of art.

21. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” - Pablo Picasso

Picasso, one of the most popular artists of all time, defines art as something that washes away the dust of everyday life, another one among his many what is art quotes.

22. “To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and…then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling—this is the activity of art” - Leo Tolstoy

The Russian author wrote this in his book, What is Art in the 1890s.

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

French impressionist painter Edgar Degas’ what is art quote discusses his relationship with art, and what he attempts to do through his creations.

24. “Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing” - Marc Chagall

Chagal expressed his love through many artistic forms, creating paintings, drawings, ceramics, tapestries, etc. as an early modernist.

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

Another artist who uses his work to express emotions is Cezanne, with his what is art quote describing how he uses art to express how he feels.

26. “There is no must in art because art is free.” - Wassily Kandinsky

What Is Art Quotes

This abstract artist is known for his non-figurative art, representing his ideology that there is no “must” in art, as his what is art quote states.

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

Dutch post-impressionist painter Van Gogh described the goal of art as to “console those who are broken by life”.

28. “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” - Aristotle

The Greek philosopher Aristotle has spoken about many subjects, one of them being art, as he discusses what is represented in his what is art quote.

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

Regarded as one of the greatest visual artists in history, Rembrandt is known for his paintings in realism, with many of his works revealing the Christian faith.

30. "Art, undeniably, is conducive to happiness" - unknown

Defining art as happiness is one of the most accurate what is art quotes that we’ve ever heard!

31. “All art is an uncommitted crime.” - Theodor W. Adorno

What Is Art Quotes

This quote illustrates Adorno’s belief that art is powerful, and that it can change society. Famous thinkers throughout history have analyzed the philosopher's meaning behind his words and come to this conclusion as well.

32. “Art is as much a need for humanity as eating and drinking” - Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Russian novelist describes art as a necessity, the same as our basic needs for food and water, and he couldn’t be more right!

33. “Art is essentially the affirmation, the blessing, and the deification of existence” - Friedrich Nietzsche

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s what is art quote shows the importance of art in the world then, and has stood the test of time as it is just as important today.

34. “Art is the stored honey of the human soul” - Theodore Dreiser

We love Dreiser’s what is art quote, defining it as the “honey of the human soul”.

35. “One of the most elusive of the traditional problems of human culture.” - Richard Wollheim

What Is Art Quotes

Philosopher Wollheim describes the nature of art through this what is art quote.

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

Warhol, known as the leading figure in the pop art movement, describes art as “what you can get away with” in his what is art quote.

37. “Art resides in the quality of doing; the process is not magic” - Charles Eames

A what is art quote by designer Charles Eames, credited as a pioneer in the field of industrial design, architecture, and manufacturing with his wife, Ray Eames.

38. “We have our Arts so we won't die of Truth” - Friedrich Nietzsche

Another popular what is art quote said by Friedrich Nietzsche and was again re-popularized by Ray Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing.

39. “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” - Henry James

What Is Art Quotes

A what is art quote from James’ short story, The Middle Years.

40. “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible” - Paul Klee

Known for his influences in art movements such as surrealism and expressionism, here is Paul Klee’s what is art quote.

41. “A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind” - Sol LeWitt

A what is art quote by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt.

42. “Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus” - David Hockney

A comparison of the goal of art VS design was said by British painter David Hockney to The Guardian in October 1988.

43. “Life is short, art is long” - Hippocrates

The Greek physician said this in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, and we love it!

44. “An essential element of any art is a risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful that hasn’t been seen before?” - Francis Ford Coppola

What Is Art Quotes

A perfect what is art quote said by Francis Ford Coppola, inspiring us to take risks to create something incredible!

45. “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” - Michelangelo

What Is Art Quotes

Italian sculpture Michelangelo described the true work of art as a “shadow of the divine perfection” in his what is art quote.

And that’s all! 45 what is art quotes by 45 incredible painters, sculptors, architects, authors, designers, or philosophers. 45 people who’ve changed the world that we live in today, with their ideas. 

Every artist is searching for their definition of art, but until you find your own, be sure to live by the words of these incredible people! 

But if you have found your definition, let us know in the comments!

Don’t forget to like and share these quotes with your fellow artists!

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Reina Piparaiya

Hi, I'm Reina Piparaiya. Check out my page for upcoming articles on film, quotes, travel and more!



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