55 thoughts on “Art is not what you see”

  1. This reminds me of poetry advice I had once heard from a workshop leader, who said that poetry isn’t a puzzle, where you’re trying to get the readers to figure out your vision, but rather, poetry is about the images that allow the reader to have their own vision and experience with your words.

  2. I should do some experiments with my work to understand this great quote.
    There might be some similarities between the way the artist and his receivers see the presented art.

  3. Ayn Rand said art is love; it is the values we hold given light. This is clear when you take a look at Gothic art vs Renaissance. Gothic art is dark and brutal which matches the era it arose. Renaissance art was bright and beautiful which matches the era.

    1. That’s a very interesting idea; I tend to be sympathetic towards Ayn Rand’s views, harsh though they are, but I’m not sure how I feel about this one… I have to think about it. Is it necessarily the case that the influence of an era’s aesthetic upon an artist is the same as that artist’s love of that aesthetic? 🤔


        1. “Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artists metaphysical value judgments.”

          Love is an expression of values. You love what you value. Therefore art is love.

        2. I’m really not trying to be difficult here, but I’m not entirely convinced.

          When I say, “I love ice cream,” does that mean that I actually love it? When I say, “I value having lots of creature comforts,” does that mean that I actually love them?

          For me, love is something particular. There may be overlap with valuing something…

          In fact, now that I think about it, I would say that, by definition, I value all that I love, but, by definition, I do not necessarily love all that I value.


        3. This is metaphysics bubba. It’s not dealing with physical pleasure lol. We’re talking about values, what you think is good or bad. Right or wrong.

          You could totally paint a ice cream cone and your deeper values will still translate. If you are depressed or angry then the ice cream will be dark or morbid. If you are happy and calm then your painting will be bright and peaceful.

          The problem you’re seeing is 100% vocabulary. We too often use words to describe an idea that do not actually describe what we really mean.

          For example the word “know”. It is impossible to “know” anything for certain yet we still use the word daily.

          “Love” is another word we too often use without actually meaning it or conveying the real meaning of what we say.

          I guarantee you do not love ice cream like you love Israel.

          Refer to my poem “Symbolic Array” for a simplification of the concept.

          “So say what you mean and mean what you say, letters and numbers, symbolic array”

        4. fair enough. could you share the link?

          for the sake of argument, then, do you draw any distinction between valuing something and loving something?

        5. so – if you have a life partner that you love, you would say that this is no different than “valuing” him/her? You’d say that’s just semantics?

        6. I think I see where you’re coming from, but it’s still difficult for me to fully accept (or, perhaps, to wrap my mind around).

          I love my wife.

          Because we have shared values?

          I’d say it’s much more than just that – I experience it as something soulful and spiritual. It’s a deep human connection that, for me, transcends most values I hold, which I can articulate (even to myself).

        7. “There are two aspects of man’s existence which are the special province and expression of his sense of life: love and art.

          I am referring here to romantic love, in the serious meaning of that term—as distinguished from the superficial infatuations of those whose sense of life is devoid of any consistent values, i.e., of any lasting emotions other than fear. Love is a response to values. It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person’s character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness. It is one’s own sense of life that acts as the selector, and responds to what it recognizes as one’s own basic values in the person of another. It is not a matter of professed convictions (though these are not irrelevant); it is a matter of much more profound, conscious and subconscious harmony.

          Many errors and tragic disillusionments are possible in this process of emotional recognition, since a sense of life, by itself, is not a reliable cognitive guide. And if there are degrees of evil, then one of the most evil consequences of mysticism—in terms of human suffering—is the belief that love is a matter of “the heart,” not the mind, that love is an emotion independent of reason, that love is blind and impervious to the power of philosophy. Love is the expression of philosophy—of a subconscious philosophical sum—and, perhaps, no other aspect of human existence needs the conscious power of philosophy quite so desperately. When that power is called upon to verify and support an emotional appraisal, when love is a conscious integration of reason and emotion, of mind and values, then—and only then—it is the greatest reward of man’s life”

        8. ok. so this is very compelling (I have a soft spot for Rand), but I find myself wondering if there isn’t possibly a gray area between what she calls “the heart” and “the mind” when it comes to love.

          My wife and I had a lot of conversations about values and life goals before we got married so that was a big part of our mutual attraction and love… but, even given my respect for Rand, it feels to me that there was and remains something more than rationality to our mutual attraction.

          But I do understand her (and your) perspective on the matter now – thank you.


  4. It is always a confirmation of success when the art results in a reaction in the individual… verbal, written, or visual art all tries to make that emotional connection.

  5. Thank you, David, for posting this beautiful, thought-provoking quote from Degas. It may be just the thing I need to overcome my problems with painting. ❤ With poems, I write both to preserve memories and moments and to share them with others. I write to explore issues and inspire a response in others. Writing poetry has been a fulfilling experience.

    When I have painted, I have been trying, usually unsuccessfully, to please myself. My paintings that have pleased me most are abstract, poured paintings, where chance plays a huge role, and interpretation by others is very subjective. A few of these hang on my wall and give me pleasure.

    My goal is to paint more abstractly in watercolors. That is the thing that has always eluded me. After reading the Degas quote, I am wondering whether part of the problem may be that I have tried to create paintings primarily for myself. I think that I would be happier if I painted more quickly and spontaneously and let accidental effects play a larger role. That would also satisfy the motivation of allowing viewers to interpret the work for themselves. 🙂

    Maybe if I post this quote above the table where I paint…

  6. fits like hand in glove with another quote that hangs around in my mind (without author): ‘I am only writing the stuff, – interpreting it is other people’s job.’

      1. am particularly glad you found my piece on Bruno’s Doumiah. It made such an impression on me. The juxtaposition with Peter Weiss is a mystery to me, Do you know the book?

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