Wednesday, July 22, 2020


The famous artist’s final painting
was found in an old wooden chest
that had been buried in a vast green field.
Unlike his previous works of delicate natural beauty,
this piece was the product of a turbulent mind,
waves of angry reds attacking sorrowful blues,
stabbed onto the canvas by a worn brush.
Anyone who stood before it
had the uncanny sensation of falling,
and most people would unconsciously reach out
for a chair or a table or a railing,
something to steady themselves.
The picture bore his signature,
but its authenticity was in doubt
because it was so very unlike anything else
the artist had ever made.
He had vanished from public life
in the three years before his death,
and clearly he had gone mad
or had been possessed by an evil spirit
to create such a thing,
if it was not a blasphemous forgery.
The artist’s cousin, who was in charge of his estate,
was afraid of what harm the painting
would cause to the artist’s reputation
(and future sales).
“Destroy it!” she commanded,
but her assistant hesitated.
He too had known the artist in life
and could not bear to throw the canvas on the fire.
So he hid it in his own attic,
waiting for a time when it could be better understood.
Half a century later,
the painting was declared the artist’s masterpiece.
Unlike his trivial, meaningless little landscapes,
this was a true expression of a tormented soul.
There were lingering rumors about the piece, though,
when one owner, and then two, met their untimely demise
through murder,
when a museum displaying it burned to the ground
with this painting as the only survivor,
when a visitor attempted suicide in front of it.
It was stolen, and then recovered,
and finally misplaced,
then forgotten.
And the artist’s pleasanter pictures
came back in style.

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