Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Washington Allston

American Painter and Poet

"Never judge a work of art by its defects."

"Distinction is the consequence, never the object of a great mind."

"Never expect justice from a vain man; if he has the negative magnanimity not to disparage you, it is the most you can expect."

"Reverence is an ennobling sentiment; it is felt to be degrading only by the vulgar mind, which would escape the sense of its own littleness by elevating itself into an antagonist of what is above it. He that has no pleasure in looking up is not fit so much as to look down."

"The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself."

"Desert being the essential condition of praise, there can be no reality in the one without the other."

"Fame has no necessary conjunction with praise; it may exist without the breath of a word: it is a recognition of excellence which must be felt, but need not be spoken. Even the envious must feel it,—feel it, and hate in silence."

"He who has no pleasure in looking up, is not fit so much as to look down."

"It was Dante who called this noble art God’s grandchild."

"Make no man your idol; for the best man must have faults, and his faults will usually become yours in addition to your own. This is as true in art as an morals."

"No man knows himself as an original."

"Reputation is but a synonym of popularity: dependent on suffrage, to be increased or diminished at the will of the voters."

"Some men make their ignorance the measure of excellence: these are, of course, very fastidious critics; for, knowing little, they can find but little to like."

"The most intangible, and therefore the worst, kind of a lie is a half truth. This is the peculiar device of a “conscientious” detractor."

"It is a hard matter for a man to lie all over, nature having provided king’s evidence in almost every member. The hand will sometimes act as a vane, to show which way the wind blows, even when every feature is set the other way; the knees smite together and sound the alarm of fear under a fierce countenance; the legs shake with anger when all above is calm."

"In the same degree that we overrate ourselves, we shall underrate others; for injustice allowed at home is not likely to be corrected abroad."

"The painter who is content with the praise of the world in respect to what does not satisfy himself, is not an artist, but an artisan; for though his reward be only praise, his pay is that of a mechanic,—for his time, and not for his art."

"Thus falling, falling from afar, As if some melancholy star Had mingled with her light her sighs, And dropped them from the skies."

"Who can look at this exquisite little creature seated on its cushion, and not acknowledge its prerogative of life—that mysterious influence which in spite of the stubborn understanding masters the mind, sending it back to days long past, when care was but a dream, and its most serious business a childish frolic? But we no longer think of childhood as the past, still less as an abstraction; we see it embodied before us, in all its mirth, and fun, and glee, and the grave man becomes again a child, to feel as a child, and to follow the little enchanter through all its wiles and never-ending labyrinth of pranks. What can be real if that is not which so takes us out of our present selves that the weight of years falls from us as a garment; that the freshness of life seems to begin anew; and the heart and the fancy, resuming their first joyous consciousness, to launch again into this moving world, as on a sunny sea whose pliant waves yield to the touch, sparkling and buoyant, carry them onward in their merry gambols? Where all the purposes of reality are answered, if there be no philosophy in admitting, we see no wisdom in disputing it."

"The love of gain never made a painter; but it has marred many."

"Selfishness in art, as in other things, is sensibility kept at home."