Two Paintings

By: Andrew Lyman

This is a story of two paintings. Each in it's own right a profound monument to humanity at its utmost pinnacle. Each painting a fife-affirming, art-affirming, invigorating creation of human genius, skill, and experience. Neither, however, will ever be seen by a living soul, because neither painting has survived the passing of time.

Two of the most moving achievements of humanity lost forever in the sea of infinite time; never again to be rescued from the depths of the imagination. They survive not in form or in photograph, not in language or in memory; only in the knowledge of their beauty and existence do they persist.

The first of the two paintings was painted over the course of 20 years. Upon its completion the artist allegedly sat before it, drank a glass of wine, and set the canvas afire. No one but he ever viewed it, and he never spoke of it. The only words he ever uttered on the subject were (to his wife after having rendered the painting to ash) "I have completed history's most profound work." The nature of the composition has been the subject of wide speculation and discussion, but no truth will ever be uncovered for the painter has long been buried and the knowledge with him. Not another living being in the history of existence has ever or will ever gaze upon such a thing.

And then a strange circumstance several years later that shares many similarities with the previously related story. An artist purportedly came running fourth from his studio in Delft claiming to have produced and subsequently destroyed the most sublime work of genius in all of human creation. "I have rendered Michelangelo to a swine, and Rubens, a knave. Piss on Rembrandt, fie on Vermeer. All the masters are grotesque by compare." Or something of the sort. This painting, too, was never glimpsed by anyone but its creator. Nothing survives as to the nature of this canvas either. It has been cast out from the channels of history and exists now only as a story.

The important difference is this: only one of these paintings ever existed at all. Only one of these stories is true. The other is as much a work of art as the fabled paintings. And while only one painting has ever realized any physical form, both remain identical in the mind. They are both mythology, even if one is true and the other is false.


All opinions expressed by Andrew Lyman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.