“We should talk less and draw more. For my part, I would like to lose the habit of speaking altogether, and continue to communicate merely in drawings, as nature teaches us. That fig tree, this little snake, the cocoon that lies there in the front of the window, peacefully awaiting its future. They are all symbols with profound content. Yes, if only someone were able to decipher their meaning, he would be in a position to do without all that is written or spoken.”
I was going over my travel journals recently and found the one from the trip I made to Weimar, Germany in August 2002. I was there with author, Diana Cohn, to research the art for her picture book, Mr. Goethe’s Garden. This book tells the story of a young girl, Anna, who becomes friends with the famous poet, playwright and scientist Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (pronounced like “Gúrteh”). Every detail in the book is accurate and historical, except for Anna. Although that friendship is entirely accurate in spirit, given Goethe’s outgoing and warm personality.
So Diana and I sat in Mr. Goethe’s garden which is still maintained at his garden house just outside the main city of Weimar, as Goethe did with many a visiting friend. We both sat and sketched there.
One day, as I sat in that garden, listening to the audio guide provided to visitors at the Gartenhaus museum, I heard this quote and copied it down verbatim. I’ve never found this quote written anywhere else.
Apparently, Goethe was sitting and conversing in his garden with visiting friends: a landscape painter named Katz and J. D. Falk, who recorded the conversation in his notebook. Goethe was drawing the landscape with a pen as he talked. Nearby, there was a snake in a jar and some cocoons he had collected.