Art is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead.

—W.H. Auden, c. 1940

We possess art lest we perish of the truth.

—Friedrich Nietzsche, 1887

If a king loves music, there is little wrong in the land.

—Mengzi , c. 330 BC

The first mistake of art is to assume that it’s serious.

—Lester Bangs, 1971

All art is a revolt against man’s fate.

—André Malraux, 1951

The work of art, just like any fragment of human life considered in its deepest meaning, seems to me devoid of value if it does not offer the hardness, the rigidity, the regularity, the luster on every interior and exterior facet, of the crystal.

—André Breton, 1937

I hate the whole race. There is no believing a word they say—your professional poets, I mean—there never existed a more worthless set than Byron and his friends for example.

—Duke of Wellington, c. 1810

A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else.

—Charles Baudelaire, 1852

Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1860

If my books had been any worse I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better I should not have come.

—Raymond Chandler, 1945

Everyone should know nowadays the unimportance of the photographic in art—that truth, life, or reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent or suggest, in essence, only through transformation, through changing into other forms than those which were merely present in appearance.

—Tennessee Williams, 1944

When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man.

—Blaise Pascal, c. 1657

Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.

—Henry David Thoreau, 1852

If it were not for the intellectual snobs who pay in solid cash—the tribute which philistinism owes to culture, the arts would perish with their starving practitioners. Let us thank heaven for hypocrisy.

—Aldous Huxley, 1926

Nowadays three witty turns of phrase and a lie make a writer.

—G.C. Lichtenberg, c. 1780

This is a fault common to all singers, that among their friends they will never sing when they are asked; unasked, they will never desist.

—Horace, c. 35 BC

It has always been my practice to cast a long paragraph in a single mold, to try it by my ear, to deposit it in my memory, but to suspend the action of the pen till I had given the last polish to my work.

—Edward Gibbon, c. 1790

Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.

—Frank Zappa, c. 1975

I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do—that was one of my favorite things about it—and when I first did it, I felt perverse.

—Diane Arbus, c. 1950

Art imitates nature as well as it can, as a pupil follows his master; thus it is a sort of grandchild of God.

—Dante, c. 1315

If we pretend to respect the artist at all, we must allow him his freedom of choice, in the face, in particular cases, of innumerable presumptions that the choice will not fructify. Art derives a considerable part of its beneficial exercise from flying in the face of presumptions.

—Henry James, 1884

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term art, I should call it “the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul.” The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of “artist.”

—Edgar Allan Poe, 1849

I never know quite when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, Dammit, Thurber, stop writing. She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, Is he sick? No, my wife says, he’s writing something.

—James Thurber, 1955

Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.

—Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1480

I don’t believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there’s one thing that’s dangerous for an artist, it’s precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and all the rest of it.

—Federico Fellini, c. 1950

I cannot live without books, but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object.

—Thomas Jefferson, 1815

Modesty is a virtue not often found among poets, for almost every one of them thinks himself the greatest in the world.

—Miguel de Cervantes, 1615

Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.

—G. K. Chesterton, 1928

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

—Aristotle, c. 350 BC

To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on the chords of emotion—a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge. One may have that condition by fits only.

—George Eliot, c. 1872

Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.

—Flannery O’Connor, 1964