Start free drawing lessons

Receive your free drawing lessons right in your inbox every week.
These are not just little tips and techniques, but a full course of learning how to see, think, and draw like an artist.

Welcome to my collection of famous artist quotes - and anecdotes about celebrated artists as well!

Here you will find some of the best  artist quotes around, with the added twist of also featuring the artist's work.  The images have been carefully researched and prepared to be free of copyright issues, so you can download them to astound your acquaintances and fill friends with envy at your cleverness.  Funny, sad, witty, surprising - some of the most creative minds in the history of art have had their words captured here for you to enjoy.

But scroll down the page and you will also find the most interesting anecdotes I can find with famous art quotations in them.

I add to the collection all the time, so keep checking back to see what's new.  You can also follow the new additions on my Pinterest boards and Facebook Fan Page.

And now for some more famous artist quotes...

Picasso and His Visitor

One of my favorite art quotations is actually part of an anecdote about Pablo Picasso. 

It would seem a friend of his decided to come by to visit him at his studio.  When he showed up, he found the painter sitting and staring somewhat despondently at the canvas he was working on.

"What's the matter?" his friend asked.

"Oh, the nose is all wrong," Pablo told him. "The whole picture is thrown out of perspective."

"Well, then why don't you just fix it?"

The artist continued to stare glumly at the painting and told him, "I can't find it."

Poussin and the Rich Man

Another story is told about Nicolas Poussin.

Poussin was said to be a very generous man with others, but very frugal himself, living in a simple, unostentatious way.  He was frequently visited by a rich and powerful man, and at the end of one of these visits, the painter lit a lamp to guide his visitor as he saw him out. 

At the door, the rich man turned to him and said, "You know, I pity you that you don't have a single servant." 

To which the artist answered, "And I pity you even more, in that you have to keep so many."

It's not only early artists who can provide famous artist quotes!

The Avant-Garde Artist and John Lennon

In the 1960s John Lennon walked into a London art gallery where there was an avant-garde exhibition going on.  One of the installations included a fresh apple.  As soon as he saw it, Lennon approached, grabbed the apple and took a bite out of it, while the artist shouted at him. 

He sheepishly put it back and smiled at her, and in the course of the ensuing exchange as she calmed down, he asked her name.

"I'm Yoko Ono", she told him.

Yes, there are even famous artist quotes going back to the Middle Ages!

Giotto and Dante Alighieri

The great medieval master Giotto was friends with Dante Alighieri, the author of the Divine Comedy.  One day Dante somewhat thoughtlessly asked Giotto, who was the father of eight: "How is it that a man who paints so beautifully makes such ugly children?" 

Giotto hesitated, then said: "Well - I did make them in the dark."

Michelangelo and the Statue

Another one of the great famous artist quotes comes from Renaissance Florence.  Michelangelo was hard at work on his marble Moses. 

It wasn't going well, when suddenly the artist hit the statue on its knee with his hammer and was heard to roar:  "Why don't you speak to me?!"

Necessarily some of the best famous artist quotes come from the brilliant Picasso!  Here's another.

Picasso and the Gestapo

It was during the second World War, and the Nazi occupation of Paris.  The Gestapo had been harassing Picasso, and on one occasion a German officer was in Picasso's apartment and saw a photo of the painting "Guernica" on a table.

"Did you do that?" the officer asked the painter.

"No," answered Picasso, "you did."

Henri Matisse and the Chapel of the Rosary

Matisse had just completed design for the Chapel of the Rosary in a convent in Vence, on the French Riviera.  It was a long project and one he considered one of his most important works, completed over four years, when Matisse was old and crippled with illness. 

The Mother Superior, Mother Gilles, was therefore taken aback when he thanked her for letting him design it, and told him how surprised she was.  The painter told her he was only doing it for himself.  This was when his former model and nurse, become Sister Jacques-Marie, objected: "But you told me you were doing it for God!"

Matisse answered:  "Yes, but I am God."

Famous artist quotes sometimes come from the world of rock!

M.C. Escher and Mick Jagger

In the 1960s the Rolling Stones got the idea of having M.C. Escher do a drawing for the next album.  It was agreed that Mick Jagger would contact him.  When Jagger took his pen and paper, he began his request by proposal by writing:  "Dear Maurits..."

He received in return a very brief response:  "Don't call me Maurits."

Jean Siméon Chardin and the Proud Artist

I translate this from a letter written in the 18th century by a M. Cochin, who was a friend of the great 18th century still-life painter, Jean Siméon Chardin; he sent it the day after Chardin's death, to be read at the funeral:

 " ... One day, an artist made a great show of the means he employed to purify and improve his colors.  M. Chardin, impatient with the chatter of a man in whom he saw no other talent than that of cold, careful rendering, said to him: "But who told you painting is done with color?"

"With what else then?" replied the greatly surprised artist.

"We use colors," continued M. Chardin, "but we paint with emotion."

And now famous artist quotes from the Renaissance...

Leonardo da Vinci and the Model

In his early years, Leonardo da Vinci wanted to paint a portrait of Christ, so he went out to walk the streets of Florence to see if he could find a young man with a face that would have the degree of purity, nobility and depth to model for it.  When he found him, the young man agreed.

Many years passed, and da Vinci was much older. This time he wanted to paint Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ.  After walking the streets of Florence he came across a man who was thin, sorrowful, and bent as though he were carrying a great weight.  But when da Vinci asked him, the man began to cry.  The artist, greatly concerned, asked if he had offended him.  "No," said the man, "it's just that many years ago you asked me to model for you for a portrait of Christ."

Titian and Michelangelo

And now for a tale of two famous artists.  One day Michelangelo went to visit the studio of an up and coming young artist called Titian.  Everyone was raving about the quality of the color, the composition, the expressiveness of his work. 

After his visit, Michelangelo had only one thing to say:  "He paints well, but it's a pity he can't draw!

I have just discovered that James Abbott McNeil Whistler was a wonderful source of anecdotes for the Famous Artists Quotes page:

Whistler and the French Poodle

James Abbott McNeil Whistler had a French poodle he adored. One day the poodle came down with a throat infection, and his master immediately summoned the great throat specialist of the time, Sir Morell Mackenzie.   Sir Morell was not pleased when he saw he had been called to treat a dog, but he didn't say anything.  He gave a prescription, asked for a big fee, and left. 

The following day he sent posthaste for Whistler. The painter, thinking it was something to do with his adored dog, dropped what he was doing and raced to the physicians's.  When he got there Sir Morell said with great seriousness: “How do you do, Mr. Whistler? I wanted to see you about having my front door painted.”

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.