The headline read, “A previously unknown work by Vincent van Gogh, tucked away in an attic after the French ambassador to Sweden a century ago called it a fake, has been found to be real after all, a landmark discovery worth millions of dollars.”
That story lingers long in my mind. I want to understand what happened that one man could call a painting a fake, and thereby nullify what really was. A lie that was believed for a century.
I do more research.
Van Gogh’s brother sold the painting, “Sunset at Montmajour,” to an art dealer who in turn sold it to Swedish industrialist, Nicolai Mustad in 1908. No doubt, Mustad was proud of it. He proclaimed he was starting a Van Gogh collection. Understandably, he prominently displayed the painting in his home where it was noticed by the French ambassador. But after Mustad drew attention to his treasure, the ambassador declared it a forgery. A fake. Worthless. Mortified, Mustad immediately banished the work to the attic, where it remained for a century.
One man’s ignorant comment so devastated this young art collector that he never displayed his prized painting again. It wasn’t worth the chance of further humiliation. It was less painful not to risk.
But ironically, it was a Van Gogh. It was the real thing. It had value. But Mustad never knew that because he let a critic dictate his opinion of what he had.
I realize why this story holds me. I am Mustad. One negative comment can change everything for me. I back down from my principles, focus on the negative, obsess about how I fall short. I hide.
So writing a blog is a risk for me, because I cannot hide. When I put words out there, I cannot take them back. Even if others disapprove of them. Or of me. I can’t hide them in the attic if I’m rejected.
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