One Had To Accept the Art of Our Day As It Was a Living Thing

Peggy Guggenheim? Ilya Ilyich Oblomov? Samuel Beckett?

Dear Quote Investigator: Peggy Guggenheim was one of the most powerful and influential collectors of modern art in the twentieth century. Yet, her initial tastes in art were classical. She preferred the works of old masters. Her viewpoint changed dramatically during a tempestuous love affair with an author and playwright who later became a Nobel Prize winner, Samuel Beckett. He suggested to her that one should accept the art of the day because it is a living thing. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1946 “Out of This Century: The Informal Memoirs of Peggy Guggenheim” appeared. The wealthy socialite described her intense relationship with Samuel Beckett during the 1930s, but she used the pseudonym “Oblomov” for Beckett. Ilya Ilyich Oblomov was the main character in a novel by the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov. Guggenheim’s name choice reflected an intriguing insight into Beckett’s nature. Oblomov’s nearly stationary ineffectuality was mirrored in the behaviors of several characters in Beckett’s later works.

Guggenheim did not use quotation marks when she relayed the advice she heard from Beckett. Boldface has been added to excerpts by QI: 1

In spite of the fact that I was opening a modern art gallery in London I much preferred old masters. Oblomov told me one had to accept the art of our day as it was a living thing. He had two passions besides James Joyce. One was Jack Yeats and the other a Dutch painter, Van Velde, a man of nearly forty, who seemed to be completely dominated by Picasso. To please Oblomov I bought a picture of Van Velde’s and promised to give him a show in London.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading One Had To Accept the Art of Our Day As It Was a Living Thing

Notes:

  1. 1946, Out of This Century: The Informal Memoirs of Peggy Guggenheim, Part 5, Chapter 1: Guggenheim Jeune, Quote Page 195, The Dial Press, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

Albert Einstein? Al-Anon? Narcotics Anonymous? Max Nordau? George Bernard Shaw? Samuel Beckett? George A. Kelly? Rita Mae Brown? John Larroquette? Jessie Potter? Werner Erhard?

Dear Quote Investigator: It’s foolish to repeat ineffective actions. One popular formulation presents this point harshly:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

These words are usually credited to the acclaimed genius Albert Einstein. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke the statement above. It is listed within a section called “Misattributed to Einstein” in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in October 1981 within a Knoxville, Tennessee newspaper article describing a meeting of Al-Anon, an organization designed to help the families of alcoholics. The journalist described the “Twelve Steps” of Al-Anon which are based on similar steps employed in Alcoholics Anonymous. The newspaper began with these two steps: 2

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

One of the attendees at the meeting hesitated to accept the accuracy of second step. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

Not all the women are willing to admit they needed to be “restored to sanity.” In fact, one of them adamantly maintains that she had never reached a point of insanity. But another remarks, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The second earliest strong match known to QI appeared in a pamphlet printed by the Narcotics Anonymous organization in November 1981: 3

The price may seem higher for the addict who prostitutes for a fix than it is for the addict who merely lies to a doctor, but ultimately both pay with their lives. Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

QI acquired a PDF of the document with the quotation above on the website amonymifoundation.org back in February 2011. The document stated that is was printed in November 1981, and it had a 1981 copyright notice. The website was subsequently reorganized, but the document remains available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine database.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Misattributed to Einstein, Quote Page 474, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1981 October 11, The Knoxville News-Sentinel Al-Anon Helps Family, Friends to Orderly Lives by Betsy Pickle (Living Today Staff Writer), Quote Page F17, Column 2, Knoxville, Tennessee. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1981, Narcotics Anonymous Pamphlet, (Basic Text Approval Form, Unpublished Literary Work), Chapter Four: How It Works, Step Two, Page 11, Printed November 1981, Copyright 1981, W.S.C.-Literature Sub-Committee of Narcotics Anonymous], World Service Conference of Narcotics Anonymous. (Accessed at amonymifoundation.org on October 3, 2011; website has been restructured; text is available via Internet Archive Wayback Machine Snapshot January 1, 2013 link PDF of pamphlet link