In this website, we have already written articles on Swami Vivekananda’s quotes on art, culture, music (check “Contents” page).. Now, in this article we’ll make a compilation of Swami Vivekananda‘s quotes on painting.
- All poetry, painting, and music is feeling expressed through words, through colour, through sound. . . .[Source]
- I am the Witness. I am in my picture gallery — this universe is my museum, I am looking at these successive paintings.[Source]
- I have seen some Japanese paintings; one cannot but marvel at their art. Its inspiration seems to be something which is their own and beyond imitation.[Source]
- If all colour could be resolved into one colour, painting would cease.[Source]
- If the painter, losing the consciousness of his ego, becomes completely immersed in his painting, he will be able to produce masterpieces.[Source]
- In glancing at a highly finished painting we cannot understand where its beauty lies. Moreover, unless the eye is, to a certain extent, trained, one cannot appreciate the subtle touches and blendings, the inner genius of a work of art.[Source]
- In these days, our young men who go in for painting are generally those who were unsuccessful at school, and who have been given up at home as good – for – nothing; what work of art can you expect from them? To paint a really good picture requires as much talent as to produce a perfect drama.[Source]
- It will take up a long time yet to become as good and efficient as they are in the arts of painting and sculpture. We were never very skilful in those two departments of art.[Source]
Note: Here “they” means “people of Western Countries” and “we” means “Indians”. — Ed.
- The energy of the Greek painter is spent in perhaps painting a piece of flesh, and he is so successful that a dog is deluded into taking it to be a real bit of meat and so goes to bite it. Now, what glory is there in merely imitating nature? Why not place an actual bit of flesh before the dog?[Source]
- The Hindus, absorbed in the ideal, lacked in realistic observation is evident from this. Take painting and sculpture. What do you see in the Hindu paintings? All sorts of grotesque and unnatural figures. What do you see in a Hindu temple? A Chaturbhanga Narayana or some such thing. But take into consideration any Italian picture or Grecian statue—what a study of nature you find in them! A gentleman for twenty years sat burning a candle in his hand, in order to paint a lady carrying a candle in her hand.[Source]
- The Indian tendency, on the other hand, to represent the ideal, the supersensual, has become degraded into painting grotesque images.[Source]
- The Mohammedans can have neither painting, nor sculpture, nor music. . . . That would lead to formalism.[Source]
- The money-lender gone, the buyer gone, the seller gone, this world remains the picture, a beautiful painting.[Source]
- The sculptor, the painter the musician the dancer, or any artist, if he can first obtain celebrate in Paris, acquires very easily the esteem and eulogy of other countries.[Source]
- The whole world of external perceptions requires something upon which to unite in order to form a concept of the world, as painting must have its canvas.[Source]
- We are awfully behindhand in art especially in that of painting.[Source]
- We hear melodious tones or see a beautiful painting, and the mind is held fast! We cannot take it away.[Source]
Painting and originality
From Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume: VII—[Source]Originality is rarely found. In those countries pictures are painted with the help of models obtained by photographing various objects. But no sooner does one take the help of machinery than all originality vanishes — one cannot give expression to one’s ideas. The ancient artists used to evolve original ideas from their brains and try to express them in their paintings. Now the picture being a likeness of photographs, the power of originality and the attempt to develop are getting scarce. But each nation has a characteristic of its own. In its manners and customs, in its mode of living, in painting and sculpture is found the expression of that characteristic idea. For instance, music and dancing in the West are all pointed in their expression. In dance, they look as if jerking the limbs; in instrumental music, the sounds prick the ear like a sword thrust, as it were; so also in vocal music. In this country, on the other hand, the dance has a rolling wave – like movement, and there is the same rounded movement in the varieties of pitch in vocal song. So also in instrumental music. Hence with regard to art also, a different expression is found among different people. People who are very materialistic take nature as their ideal, and try to express in art ideas allied thereto, while the people whose ideal is the transcendent Reality beyond nature try to express that in art through the powers of nature. With regard to the former class of people, nature is the primary basis of art, while with the second class, ideality is the principal motive of artistic development. Thus, though starting with two different ideals in art, they have advanced in it each in its own way. Seeing some paintings in the West you will mistake them for real natural objects. With respect to this country also, when in ancient times sculpture attained a high degree of perfection, if you look at a statue of the period it will make you forget the material world and transport you to a new ideal world. As in Western countries paintings like those of former times are not produced now, so in our country also, attempts to give expression to original ideas in art are no longer seen. For example, the paintings from your art school have got no expression, as it were. It would be well if you try to paint the objects of everyday meditation of the Hindus by giving in them the expression of ancient ideals.
Should Indian painters imitate Western painting?
From Swami Vivekananda’s The East and the West (Bengali: প্রাচ্য ও পাশ্চাত্য)—[Source]
By imitating the Europeans we at the utmost can only produce one or two Ravi Varmas among us! But far better than such artists are our Patuas (painter) who do the Châlchitras of our goddesses, in Bengal. They display in their work at least a boldness in the brilliancy of their colours. The paintings of Ravi Varma and others make one hide one’s face from shame! Far better are those gilded pictures of Jaipur and the Chalchitra of the goddess Durgâ that we have had from old times. I shall reserve my reflections on the European arts of sculpture and painting for some future occasion. That is too vast a subject to enter upon here.