The Purifying Legitimacy of Quality

Why this obsession with being the best? Why did he have to assume that only quality could legitimize his work? In fact, he could hardly even begin to think about it except in terms of quality. But what if he was making a mistake? Or indulging in an unhealthy fantasy? Why couldn’t he be like everyone else (like Krause, for example) simply painting as well as he could and giving more weight to other things? 

- César Aira’s An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

This reminds me of another passage from Dinesen:

It is terrible and unbearable to an artist ... to be encouraged to do, to be applauded for doing, his second best ... through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost!

- Babette's Feast, Isak Dinesen