A Painter Who Painted in Just One Color

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

In the mid-70s, there lived a strange painter in the bleak streets of north London. His name was Arthur, his health was as weak as the air in the streets, hence, he looked way older than his age. However, he wasn’t old enough, but somehow, he was a little slow, you could track him changing his subtle face expression frame by frame. In his way, his movements were rebellious to the pace of this world.

Every evening he would come to a local restaurant, the Richard’s, with his canvas, colors, and brushes and sit at table no. 7 because it was the table from where he could see the intersection of all three streets outside of the restaurant.

Before he started painting, he used to order a small glass of cognac and take a few tiny sips out of it and look point-blank at those three streets through the window, but he never finished his drink. The owner of The Richard’s was his good friend and always reserved the table no. 7 for his not-too-old friend. No doubt, everyone, including staff and customers, loved seeing Arthur painting masterpieces.

Finally, the summer arrived in London, it arrived like a warm hug from a distant lover. The streets revived again, kids played outside till late in the evening, and women were particularly happy.

Arthur, who always appreciated the intersection, somehow never thought of including it in one of his paintings. However, he had already promised Richard to gift the painting to him for his restaurant if he ever happened to paint the intersection on his canvas.

This summer Arthur chose to make an exception. He chose to paint a view from a point where he sat, where all three streets met, from that point he could see all three streets to some depth. That evening he started painting, like a virtuoso he was, he captured every little detail of objects and expressions of people’s faces, even shades of a cat strolling in the streets. It took him a couple of days but the painting was finally finished.

Richard came to take a look at yet another masterpiece of Arthur, to his surprise, the painting was all in just one color, it was all blue. Shops, stalls, fruits, toys, kids, people, their hats, canes, even the cat was also blue. Richard was perplexed, but he respected Arthur enough to ask any questions about this artistic prowess, and made peace with his mind by assuming that he did not possess the eye to appreciate a true masterpiece. After wondering at the picture for a while he thanked Arthur from bottom of his heart and placed the painting in at a place from where everyone could appreciate it.

A day passed, Arthur came back to the restaurant in the evening, and like always, he ordered a glass of cognac. Richard came to greet his friend and asked where his canvas was that day. Arthur stood up and took the painting he painted for Richards and started painting over it, the same objects, but with a different color, but just one color. Richard just stood there and watch him doing it but couldn’t muster up enough strength to ask him anything. When finished Arthur would take painting and put it where it was put to showcase the customers of the restaurant.

Slowly Richard noticed that it became the new ritual of Arthur. He would come every evening and take the painting and paint it a different shade of color, every day the same painting but in a new color. It took 3 months to Richard to finally break down, and this time he filled the glass of cognac and took it to Arthur at his favorite table. And he asked him, “Pardon me Arthur, but why do you paint just one painting over and over again?”

Then Richard witnessed the expressions changing on the face of Arthur, first, his eyes brightened up, then slowly the curve of his smile got bigger and bigger, then he took a sip of cognac and said in a low but intimidating voice,

“If you do it right, one painting is enough, isn’t it?”

“But why only in one color?”

“Because this is how I see this world.”

“What do you mean, don’t you see any other color in this world?” curiously asked Richard.

“You see Richard, every one of us has an emotional and psychological spectacle in our heart through which we see this world. Every minute or hour or day, the shade of this spectacle changes and so does the color of this world for us.

One day, I was missing my late wife, and how she used to bake a perfect loaf of bread for me. Thinking about her and her smile made me sad, and even though this world had so many colors, but I was looking at this world from a blue spectacle, no matter how hard I tried, all I could see is color blue.

I hope this answers to your question, my friend”

said Arthur while looking out of the window and hiding the mist in his eyes.

“You’re too smart for me, mate. My apologies. Please enjoy your drink.” said Richard and walked away.

Arthur emptied the glass this time and went back to his painting. Today, he painted it in turquoise.

Days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became years. It had been 9 years; Arthur was still painting over the same painting every evening with an unfinished glass of cognac by his side.

He grew older now, he could hardly move, Richard started worrying about him. But he did not stop coming every evening.

One day, it was the birthday of Arthur, so Richard thought of throwing a small party at the restaurant to honor their friendship. The restaurant was decorated with beautiful lights and flowers from Arthur’s choice. And a fresh barrel of cognac was opened for that day. The clock struck 6 and everyone glued their eyes on the gate of the restaurant.

An hour passed but Arthur didn’t come. Richard grew worried and ran towards Arthur’s house and knocked at Arthur’s door. No one came to open the door. He saw the door was open. He walked in on tiptoe without making any sound. As he was moving further, he was fighting with his anticipation of an unfortunate event. He reached his bedroom door and pushed it slowly, there lied his genius artist friend. He went up to him and stood in front of him and expected slow change in his friend’s facial expressions. But this time, Arthur wasn’t slow, he just stopped. Richard couldn’t help but broke down in tears.

After a few minutes, he made a few telephone calls to Arthur’s relatives and conveyed this sad message to them. He couldn’t stay longer at Arthur’s, so he came back to the restaurant and saw his staff was still there. The clock said it was 11 PM, everyone should have been at their home by now. He asked everyone to leave and said he needed some time alone.

When everyone left, he strolled to the bar and filled a small glass of cognac that Arthur liked and came back to sit on the table no. 7 and looked out in the window at the intersection. His tears wouldn’t stop, he kept thinking about his dear friend and how he never got a chance to say goodbye to him. He took a sip from his drink and happened to look at Arthur’s painting. He shook his head like he saw something unreal.

He wiped his eyes and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Arthur’s painting was colorful for the first time, there was every color in the painting that Arthur had ever used. Richard ran towards the painting and still couldn’t believe his eyes and kept wiping his eyes over and over again. He never saw a painting this beautiful in his entire life. It contained every possible emotion, every possible color, every possible detail in it.

Richard was crying and laughing at the dilemma of the situation. As he was admiring the painting, he saw, there was something written at the bottom of the painting. He read it carefully, it was a text from Arthur, it said,

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

“I have given every bit of myself to this painting until nothing left to myself. It is only by losing myself entirely, have I seen this world in its true sense.

Love — Arthur.”

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