Fame is a strange and largely abstract concept, and comes in all shapes and sizes. There are the heroes of antiquity and contemporary icons who achieved a level of fame that still echoes through the ages, and the “one hit wonders” of our modern age whose fame came fast and disappeared just as quickly.
Fame can be actively sought after, or it can be an unforeseen — and often unwanted — byproduct of a successful life. Pablo Picasso never knew that he would become famous, but he recognized, somewhat reluctantly, that “fame for a painter means sales, gains, fortune, riches.” As with many famous figures both past and present, Picasso’s recognition came from his talent, but his celebrity was ultimately out of his control — and, to quote Shakespeare, “there's the rub.” These quotes from famous figures through the centuries show the ups and downs of this fickle fortune.
Fame and tranquility can never be bedfellows.
—Michel de Montaigne, philosopher
Fame, we may understand, is no sure test of merit, but only a probability of such; it is an accident, not a property of man.
— Thomas Carlyle, historian
There have been as great souls unknown to fame as any of the most famous.
— Benjamin Franklin
I should like to be famous and unknown.
— Edgar Degas, artist
I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp, which when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward.
— L. Frank Baum
Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.
— Cary Grant
With fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a very common phenomenon.
— Albert Einstein
Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined for service.
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Fame is fickle, and I know it. It has its compensations but it also has its drawbacks, and I've experienced them both.
— Marilyn Monroe
Fame is very agreeable, but the bad thing is that it goes on 24 hours a day.
— Gabriel García Márquez
The best fame is a writer's fame: It's enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough that you get interrupted when you eat.
— Fran Lebowitz
There aren't many downsides to being rich, other than paying taxes and having relatives asking for money. But being famous, that's a 24-hour job right there.
— Bill Murray
Fame can take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them.
— David Bowie
If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave yourself like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.
— Margaret Atwood
The strangest part about being famous is you don't get to give first impressions anymore. Everyone already has an impression of you before you meet them.
— Kristen Stewart
Fame is like a big piece of meringue — it's beautiful and you keep eating it, but it doesn't really fill you up. It's a game, a great game, that's all.
— Pierce Brosnan
Photo credit: Sophie Louisnard/ Unsplash