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Quotations about Art and Criticism
compilation ©2004, by Aisling D'Art

All profoundly original art looks ugly at first. --Clement Greenberg

Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting. --Dr. Emmit Fox

Meaning, not beauty, is what we are after. --Peter London

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt; perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize. --Robert Hughes

But what is criticism? Criticism is purely destructive; anyone can destroy, but not everyone can build up. --Somerset Maugham in Of Human Bondage

It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else. --Henri Matisse

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. --Elbert Hubbard

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct. --Benjamin Disraeli, in the House of Commons, 1860

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs. --Christopher Hampton

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do. --Dale Carnegie, also attributed to Benjamin Franklin

It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. --Virginia Woolf

If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much. --Donald H. Rumsfeld

After all, one knows one's weak points so well, that it's rather bewildering to have the critics overlook them and invent others. --Edith Wharton

Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. --Zeuxis, Pliny the Elder (about 400 BCE)

We have been educated to such a fine -- or dull -- point that we are incapable of enjoying something new, something different, until we are first told what it's all about. We don't trust our five senses; we rely on our critics and educators, all of whom are failures in the realm of creation. In short, the blind lead the blind. It's the democratic way. --Henry Miller

Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience. -- Rebecca West

What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you. --Jean Cocteau

If it adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be meaningless recreation. --Albert Camus

Honest criticism means nothing: what one wants is unrestrained passion, fire for fire. --Henry Miller

Brilliant people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people. --unknown

Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway --Eleanor Roosevelt

Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at very small expense. He whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant, may yet support his vanity by the name of a critic. --Samuel Johnson

The very essence of the creative is its novelty, and hence we have no standard by which to judge it. --Carl R. Rogers in On Becoming a Person

Taste is the enemy of creativeness. --Pablo Picasso

Criticism is prejudice made plausible. --H. L. Mencken

There are some disabling myths about what art is, how to do it, what is good art, and what art is for, that have gagged generations, depriving them of significant and natural means of expression. This was a terrible loss and an unnecessary one. --Peter London

No man ever got very high by pulling other people down. The intelligent merchant does not knock his competitors. The sensible worker does not work those who work with him. Don't knock your friends. Don't knock your enemies. Don't knock yourself. --Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The voice of our original self is often muffled, overwhelmed, even strangled, by the voices of other people's expectations. --Julia Cameron

Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike. --Margot Fonteyn

A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist. --Oscar Wilde in The Soul of Man Under Socialism

If you find yourself criticizing other people, you're probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.--Steven Pressfield in The War of Art

It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head. --Sally Kempton

Pointed criticism, if accurate, often gives the artist an inner sense of relief. The criticism that damages is that which disparages, dismisses, ridicules, or condemns. --William Ernest Henley

I think most artists create out of despair. The very nature of creation is not a performing glory on the outside, it's a painful, difficult search within. --Louise Nevelson

The lot of critics is to be remembered by what they failed to understand. --George Moore

Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard. --John Steinbeck

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. --Joseph Chilton Pearce

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. --Pablo Picasso

To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experiences of shaping that artwork. The viewers' concerns are not your concerns (although it'd dangerously easy to adopt their attitudes.) Their job is wahtever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever. Your job is to learn to work on your work. --David Bayles & Ted Orland in Art & Fear

As long as there's something original going on, that's all that matters. --Jeff Beck

The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. --David Bayles and Ted Orland in Art & Fear

To be nobody-but-yourself--in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else--means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. --e.e. cummings

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. --attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. --Teddy Roosevelt, at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1910

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