Famous Last Words: Artists

A collection of memorable dying words spoken by well-known artists

Detail from the Mona Lisa, c. 1503-1506, by artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Whether realized at the time they are said or only in hindsight, nearly everyone will express a word, phrase or sentence that proves the last thing he or she ever says while alive. Sometimes profound, sometimes everyday, here you will find a select collection of the last words spoken by the world's famous artists.

Author's note: For the purposes of this article, "artist" is defined as someone who expressed his or her artistic vision through painting or sculpting.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1796-1875, French painter
I hope with all my heart there will be painting in heaven.

Salvador Dali, 1904-1989, Spanish painter
Where is my clock?

Dali's final words evoke the image of one of his most famous works, The Persistence of Memory, which featured melting pocket watches.

Raphael, 1483-1520, Italian painter and architect

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter, 1853-1890
The sadness will last forever.

Controversy surrounds both the troubled artist's last words and the cause of his death. A letter written by his brother, Theo, who was at Van Gogh's side when he died, implies his final words were, "I would like to go like this," which the artist said about 30 minutes before he died. A second letter written by his brother a few days later, however, states that Van Gogh said, "La tristesse durera toujours" [The sadness will last forever] before he died "a few moments later." In addition, a letter written by Van Gogh's friend, Emile Bernard, states that the artist, with "complete lucidity," committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver on July 27, 1890. The authors of a biography, Van Gogh, A Life, published in 2011, however, postulate that the artist died from an accidental shooting at the hands of two local boys.

Michelangelo, 1475-1564, Italian painter, sculptor and architect
I give my soul to God, my body to the earth and my worldly possessions to my nearest of kin, charging them to remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

Grandma Moses (Anna Marie Robertson Moses), 1860-1961, American painter
You take me back to Eagle Bridge and you'll get back your stethoscope.

Moses lived in Eagle Bridge, New York, and said these words to her doctor at the healthcare facility where she died, located in Hoosick Falls, New York, roughly 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from her home.

Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish painter
Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can't drink any more.

Joseph M.W. Turner, 1775-1851, English painter
The Sun, my dear, the Sun is God.

Turner is known for his skillful use of light/illumination in his works, which earned him the moniker "painter of light."

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519, Italian painter, sculptor, musician, architect and inventor
I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

The final words expressed by da Vinci appear ironic in hindsight given that he painted the Mona Lisa, the world's best known painting and considered a masterpiece.

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"Letter from Theo van Gogh to His Mother," by Theodore van Gogh, August 1, 1890. Van Gogh's Letters. Retrieved January 8, 2015. http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/21/etc-Theo-mother1.htm

"Letter from Theo van Gogh to Elisabeth van Gogh," by Theodore van Gogh, August 5, 1890. Van Gogh's Letters. Retrieved January 8, 2015. http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/21/etc-Theo-Lies.htm

"New Revelations on Vincent van Gogh's Death," October 13, 2011. 60 Minutes. Retrieved January 8, 2015. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-revelations-on-vincent-van-goghs-death

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