Degas' Viral Art Quote Is Fake

One of the most inspiring quotations about art that you can find on line is this one:

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. (Edgar Degas)

It shows up everywhere.

But where's the proof that Degas ever said it or wrote it? You can't rely on Goodreads as a source because fake quotes and misquotations run riot there. And if you do a Google search you'll just end up finding one site after another repeating the quotation without any source at all.

I checked French Google and found it pointing me to Facebook which notoriously spreads fake quotes of all kinds. One French site connected to Le Figaro lists ten top Degas quotes about art. Guess what? This quote isn't on there in any form.


The quotation also doesn't show up on a French site listing 19 Degas quotations or appear on any other French web site dedicated to Degas that I could find. The attribution to Degas seems completely bogus.

But whoever said it, does the quote really make sense? How can art not be about what the artist sees as well as what the viewer makes of it? Didn't Seurat see something different than Delacroix, and Matisse see something different than Degas -- and so on?

Degas told the wealthy art collector Alexis Rouart that he'd like to be famous and unknown (Je voudrais être illustre et inconnu).

Thanks to the Internet he's partly famous for something he apparently never said.

Lev Raphael is the author of the thriller Assault With a Deadly Lie and 24 other books in many genres.