Twenty Paintings

William walked about the factory expressionless, glancing here and glancing there. Occasionally he’d stop for a moment in front of a painting hanging on a wall and stare. Albert would notice this and move close behind him, peering over his shoulder, waiting for a word. But William would just sigh and move on again, spinning a watch chain around his finger until it tightened and spun back outward, not saying a thing.

Finally William spoke, but only to Albert’s frustration.

“So this is where you’ve made your fortune, eh? What is it again you make here?”

Albert squinted at his friend, “An antiseptic... for infants... Say, William, enough about that. What about my collection?”

William, still spinning his watch, looked his old classmate in the eyes. He’d heard that Albert had become a stubborn and proud man since they’d been children, slow to forgive or forget. And knowing full well that Albert had put himself through medical school on earnings hard-fought-for in the boxing ring, he hesitantly said, “Would the word dilettante offend you?”

Albert flushed a little and pushed his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. “Only if it came from someone other than you, William. Teach me what I need to know.”

William responded without hesitation, “I’ll need to go to Paris...”

The twenty paintings that William Glackens returned to Philadelphia with at first produced no emotion in Albert. But the more and more he studied them and the more and more he read about them, a little spark began to burn.

When Albert Barnes rolled through a stop sign and was broadsided by a truck on July 24, 1951, his private collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Early Modern artwork was unparalleled.

Though historically priceless, the collection today is estimated to be worth thirty billion dollars.


kam said...

Wow. Wow on the story itself and another wow on your tightness. Good, tight writing. k

cyurkanin said...

And another wow for your compliment, thanks kam :)