25 Literary Art Quotes For Inspiring Your Most Creative Self

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Great art, whether it’s visual art, poetry, music, dance, or some other creative work, challenges and inspires us. And, in doing so, it has the power to transform us and the world around us. As a tribute to the value of art in our world, we’ve assembled a collection of art quotes, to help you get your juices flowing and thoughts moving as you create your own art and enjoy and learn from the art around you.

Image of quote on blue background: “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship

“If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?” —Alice Walker

“Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.” —Madeleine L’Engle. The Rock that is Higher: Story as Truth

“If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.” —Yann Martel, Life of Pi

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“i am a museum full of art
but you had your eyes shut”
—Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

The Pin


“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.” —Anton Chekhov

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.” —James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son

“For me, Art is the restoration of order. It may discuss all sort of terrible things, but there must be satisfaction at the end. A little bit of hunger, but also satisfaction.” —Toni Morrison

“One thing about great art: it made you love people more, forgive them their petty transgressions. It worked in the way that religion was supposed to, if you thought about it.” —Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked

“I think the mystery of art lies in this, that artists’ relationship is essentially with their work—not with power, not with profit, not with themselves, not even with their audience.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

“Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.” —Oscar Wilde

The Pin

“Art is a person’s private vision expressed in aesthetic forms.” —Chaim Potok, My Name Is Asher Lev

“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.” —Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

“If a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.” —Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

“There must always be two kinds of art: escape-art, for man needs escape as he needs food and deep sleep, and parable-art, that art which shall teach man to unlearn hatred and learn love.” —W.H. Auden

“Art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” —Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

The Pin

“Sometimes it is better not to talk about art by using the word ‘art.’ If we just act with awareness and integrity, our art will flower, and we don’t have to talk about it at all.” —Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

“Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.” —Ann Patchett, Bel Canto

“Some say art is our highest form of hope…Perhaps it’s our only hope.” —Roma Tearne, Mosquito

“That is one of the functions of art: to present what the narrow and desperately practical perspectives of real life exclude.” —C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

“I think that the power of art is the power to wake us up, strike our depths, change us. What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren’t aware of before.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words

“My weakness has always been to prefer the large intention of an unskilful artist to the trivial intention of an accomplished one: in other words, I am more interested in the high ideas of a feeble executant than in the high execution of a feeble thinker.” —Thomas Hardy, The Later Years of Thomas Hardy

“We look too much to museums. The sun coming up in the morning is enough.” —Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act

“Art was not an after-school special. Art was not motivational speaking. Art was not sentimental. It had no responsibility to be hopeful or optimistic or make anyone feel better about the world. It must reflect the world in all its brutality and beauty, not in hopes of changing it but in the mean and selfish desire to not be enrolled in its lie, to not be coopted by the television dreams, to not ignore the great crimes all around us.”
—Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

What are some of your favorite quotes about art? Share them in the comments! And if you want more than art quotes to spark your creative spirit, check out this list of books.