Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world. No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination. One of the weaknesses of much abstract painting is the attempt to substitute the inventions of the human intellect for a private imaginative conception.
The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of colour, form and design. The term “life” used in art is something not to be held in contempt, for it implies all of existence and the province of art is to react to it and not to shun it. Painting will have to deal more fully and less obliquely with life and nature’s phenomena before it can again become great.
— Edward Hopper
I think those words apply not just to painting, but to all art forms. The only art of any kind that’s ever truly great is that which is an honest expression of something the artist knows, believes, sees, imagines, or feels a need to say in a way that’s unique and specific to them.
Thanks to Ray Carney (yes — that Ray Carney) for suggesting I investigate Hopper’s work.