30 Creativity Quotes from the Old Masters

Old Masters generally refers to European artists who lived between the 13th and 18th centuries. This term is not used to describe a single style, but rather a handful of art movements including the Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Neoclassicism, and Romanticism. These movements are distinguished by influential figures who created iconic works of art, but at times struggled to do so. A quote by the revered Michelangelo, “I am still learning,” emphasizes this point.

Where did Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Rembrandt find inspiration in times of struggle?

Whether you’re interested in looking deeper into the lives of notable figures in Western art history or need a push for your own artistic endeavors, these quotes about creativity will help you find the inspiration you need. Note that some of the artists below participated in several movements, but were classified by the era that most closely defines their work. Browse through the collection and discover a few words of wisdom that speak to you.

Creativity Quotes of The Renaissance Era

creativity quotes raphael

The Renaissance marks a period of transition from the Middle Ages into modern history in Europe. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, artists focused on depicting the world as realistically as possible while encompassing balance and harmony. Society evolved, which was reflected through increased individuality, political stability, and economic growth. Art patrons like the Medici family supported artists in Florence, the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance.

  • “What beauty is, I know not, thought it adheres to many things.”-Albrecht Dürer
  • “A good painter needs only three colors: black, white and red.”-Titian
  • “If it were as easy to do a thing as to judge it, my Christ would not look like a peasant; but take some wood yourself and make one.”-Donatello
  • “Drawing is the necessary beginning of everything, and not having it, one has nothing.”-Giorgio Vasari
  • “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”-Michelangelo
  • “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”-Leonardo da Vinci

Creativity Quotes of The Mannerist Era

creativity quotes zuccari

By the mid-1500s, artists were exaggerating the realistic and harmonious techniques of the Renaissance to develop the Mannerist style. This resulted in disproportionate figures, conflicting colors, skewed perspectives, and unusual themes within compositions. El Greco, Parmigianino, and Benvenuto Cellini are classified as Mannerist artists.

  • “I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head.” -Doménikos Theotokópoulos, also known as El Greco
  • “Oh, but a man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” -Andrea Del Sarto
  • “All works of nature created by God in heaven and on earth are works of sculpture.” -Benvenuto Cellini

Creativity Quotes of The Baroque Era

creativity quotes poussin

Works of art from the Baroque era convey a sense of awe. This style captures the drama and contrast that flourished throughout Italy and France during the early 17th century. The Roman Catholic Church capitalized on the popularity of this art movement, using the paintings as religious propaganda. For this reason, many Baroque works can be found in churches across Europe.

  • “A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.” -Rembrandt
  • “My illustrations lordship, I’ll show you what a woman can do.” -Artemisia Gentileschi
  • “Drawing is the skeleton of what you do and color is its flesh.” -Nicolas Poussin
  • “White is poison to a picture, use it only in highlights.” -Peter Paul Rubens
  • “Poets paint with words, painters speak with works.” -Annibale Carracci

Creativity Quotes of The Neoclassic Era

creativity quotes joshua reynolds

Neoclassicism involved decorative and visual art and was inspired directly by the classical art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome. The uncovering of Pompeii and Athens contributed to this style by enriching the knowledge of ancient art forms. Neoclassical artists like French painter Jacques-Louis David preferred a clear form and style featuring carefully controlled brushstrokes.

  • “A mere copier of nature can never produce anything great.” -Joshua Reynolds
  • “To give a body and a perfect form to one’s thought, this – and only this – is to be an artist.” -Jacques-Louis David
  • “Draw lines – draw a lot of lines.” -Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
  • “Remember, light and shadow never stand still.” -Benjamin West

Creativity Quotes of The Romantic Era

creativity quotes eugene delacroix

With an emphasis on passion and individualism, the Romantic Era emphasized the beauty and power in nature. Further fueled by the French Revolution of 1789, Romanticism rejected order, calm, and harmony, instead portraying epic battle scenes or the overwhelming power of nature. Painters of this era tended to play with light and shadows, a technique developed during the Renaissance called chiaroscuro. Borrow a few words from famous Romanticism artists like Eugène Delacroix, John Constable, and more below:

  • “A taste for simplicity cannot endure for long.” -Eugène Delacroix
  • “The painter should paint not only what he has in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself.” -Caspar David Friedrich
  • “The act of painting is about one heart telling another heart where he found salvation.” -Francisco Goya
  • “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” -William Blake
  • “When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is to forget that I have ever seen a picture.” -John Constable
  • “Art, like love, excludes all competition and absorbs the man.” -Henry Fuseli
  • “It is better to be nothing than a follower of other painters. The wise man has said when one follows another one is always behind. -Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

If you’re looking for more creativity tips after being inspired by words from the Old Masters themselves, take a look through our selection of the best books or our list of TED talks intended to spark your creative genius.

Don’t forget to browse through the renowned work of the Old Masters with auctions from our partners including Freeman’s, Doyle and Sotheby’s.