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20 Thoughts From Modern Artists to Broaden Your Mind

The writer Milan Kundera once said, “You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.” And while the definition of modern art is certainly broad, it’s safe to say that imagination is very much at its core.

Modern art embraces a wide range of artistic movements, attitudes, and theories. Generally speaking, it includes artistic works produced from the 1860s to the 1970s — but only if these works go against the traditions and artistic conventions of the past. From cubism to pop art to abstract expressionism and beyond, modernist movements display experimentation in terms of both style and technique — and frequently challenge the notion that art must realistically depict the world.

Here is a collection of mind-broadening quotes from some of the most iconic names in modern art, including Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and the king of surrealism, Salvador Dalí.

We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.
— Pablo Picasso

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.
— Vincent van Gogh

The world is a piece of raw material — for the unreceptive soul it is the back of a mirror, but for reflective souls it is a mirror of images appearing continually.
— Olga Rozanova

Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.
— Salvador Dalí

If you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion.
— Francis Bacon

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.
— Henri Matisse

Art is anything you can get away with.
— Andy Warhol

Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to “walk about” into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?
— Wassily Kandinsky

I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.
— Marcel Duchamp

I do not need the musing of the philosophers to tell me what I am doing. It would be more interesting to let me know why I am doing it.
— Louise Bourgeois

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant — there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing — and keeping the unknown always beyond you.
— Georgia O’Keeffe

There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn't have any beginning or any end. He didn't mean it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment. Only he didn't know it.
— Jackson Pollock

The goal of the artist must be aesthetic development, and in a universal sense, to make in his own way some contribution to culture.
— Norman Lewis

I paint flowers so they will not die.
— Frida Kahlo

In life, just as on the artist’s palette, there is but one single color that gives meaning to life and art — the color of love.
— Marc Chagall

To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.
— Paul Klee

Art derives from a person's desire to communicate himself to another. I do not believe in an art which is not forced into existence by a human being’s desire to open his heart… Art is your heart’s blood.
— Edvard Munch

You must aim high, not in what you are going to do at some future date, but in what you are going to make yourself do today. Otherwise, working is just a waste of time.
— Edgar Degas

Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing sensations.
— Paul Cézanne

Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.
— Claude Monet

Photo credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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