Although art in practice brings great difficulties for all those entering into it, this is so to the greatest possible degree in our own time. But for someone who has reached an age at which the intellect has already come to predominate to begin exercises in the initial stages, it must surely be impossible—without destroying himself—to pass forth from his own individuality toward more general endeavours ... He who loses himself in the boundless abundance of the life unfolding around him, and is thereby irresistibly prompted to copy it—and who thus feels so powerfully moved by the total impression—will surely seek to penetrate into the proportions, nature, and strengths of the great masses in precisely the same fashion in which he enters into the characteristic quality of the details ... He who considers the great masses—with a constant sense of the way in which all things are alive, down to the tiniest detail, affecting everything else—cannot conceive of them without a particular connection or affinity, far less depict them without being drawn to consider their fundamental causes. And when he does so, he cannot return once again to his initial freedom without working his way through to the pure ground, as it were ... To clarify what I mean: I believe that the old German artists, if they had known something of form, would have lost the immediacy and naturalness of expression in their figures, until they had reached a certain stage in this science ... There have been those who have built bridges and suspension work and other such technical things simply by eye. That is certainly possible for a time, but once a certain height has been reached and one naturally hits upon mathematical conclusions, his whole talent will be for nothing unless he works his way through the science and back into freedom.
runge to goethe, 7.05.1806
At ninety I shall penetrate the mystery of things; at a hundred I shall certainly have reached a marvellous stage; and when I am a hundred and ten, everything I do—be it but a line or dot—will be alive.