Perhaps there is no shorter maxim which carries as much relevance for our day: less is more.
According to Phrase Finder this is a 19th century proverbial phrase first found in print in 'Andrea del Sarto', 1855, a poem by Robert Browning:
Who strive - you don't know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,-
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter) - so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia.
You can read the poem in its entirety here. Browning writes a monologue to his wife about their challenged relationship and his own struggles...'This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine...' which alludes that in quiet ways he himself can provide so much more with less fanfare.
Moreover, the phrase is often associated with the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style.
Indeed, less is more has become a mantra:
- for the Minimalist movement
- a book Less is More: embracing simplicity for a healthy planet, a caring economy, and lasting happiness.
- the cookbook More-with-Less published in 1976 with sales over 830,000 copies
- for shopping
Less is more applies to a wide range of lifestyle choices. The practice can enrich and empower without seeking the limelight.