He stepped back and drank it all in with awe in his eyes, it was finally done. It had been a cloudless autumn night when…
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He stepped back and drank it all in with awe in his eyes, it was finally done.
It had been a cloudless autumn night when the thought had first moored in his mind. The idea had suddenly appeared, fully formed, in his head and there was no question of not following through with it. He had slipped out of his cave without anyone noticing and before he knew it, he was walking towards the hillock to the west, he didn’t know what he was searching for but he knew where it was. The golden rays of the sun were creeping up from the east by the time he reached his destination, he saw in a blaze of morning glory the huge expanse of rock and he knew this was where he would bring the mystic imagery in his mind to the world of the living. Silhouetted by the sun, a half smile was born on the lips of the world’s first artist.
It was hard work - he roamed the lands searching for leaves and berries to make his colors, stones of different kinds to draw his strokes, fine hair of the antelope which grazed the plains helped him apply the touches which required finesse beyond the reach of human fingers. The tribes people thought he was sick at first, he had stopped joining them for hunts and was rarely seen during meals, he had grown gaunt. A few of them followed him to see where he was disappearing to and saw him scribbling on a huge rock - after that they started calling him crazy. It didn’t bother him, he lived in a trance like state and his thoughts were always on his work, Autumn left taking all the leaves with it, the winter that year was the harshest for a long time, food grew scarce but the world’s first artist was not to be deterred. Even as he himself wasted away, he poured his life into the painting on the rock. Winter clung on stubbornly till in the end, unwillingly it had to make way for spring.
It was on an early spring day when a couple of young children roaming about in the joy of their first good meal in months, stumbled upon our artist in his cave. The painting was nearing completion - yet even in its unfinished form it stunned the children who had never imagined it’s like. They let out a cry of wonder and surprise, awakening the artist who now slept near his work. He was in a foul mood and he angrily drove the children away. The children ran back to the settlement and as is the wont of children they all tried to tell everyone, everything at once. At first the elders dismissed them as wild daydreams and tall tales - but the head of the tribe was a man of intelligence and sound judgement. He knew that these were not the faces of children who were joking around. He took them aside and learnt of the artist - who the elders had presumed dead by now as no one had seen him since the start of the winter. The headman went to see the artist the next day and was met by him outside his cave. The artist did not allow the headsman to enter as his work was incomplete. They argued for a while and finally the artist relented and took him inside, the beauty of the unfinished painting brought the headsman to his knees - he cried that such beauty should not be hidden away, it should be shown to the whole world, proudly. The artist made him promise not to let anybody near the cave or to disturb him again until the day of the summer solstice - by when his work would be done.
Spring melted into summer - the headman kept his word. No one came to disturb the artist and he completed his work in peace and now two days before the summer solstice it was finally complete. The artist staggered back, his work now done, the imaginary spell was broken and the true enormity and magnificence of his creation washed over him. The world’s first artist began to cry.
A few hours before sunrise on summer solstice day, the tribe slowly began to gather outside the artist’s cave. The early morning darkness bound them in an enchanted silence. The sun rose. As the golden light fell upon the painting, a hush spread across the crowd - rendered speechless by the beauty and grandeur of what they now saw before them a few among the crowd started to cry, tears of joy streamed down their faces, slowly, everyone went down on their knees and they bowed their heads in reverence and they began to pray.
The seasons turned into years and the years into decades. The world’s first artist was dead and gone, but his creation till brought people to their knees. The hillock facing the rising sun became a pilgrimage point for those inspired by what they saw and what they felt. Many new artists were born - they created their own masterpieces but none rivalled the visceral beauty of the original artist's creation. On top of the artists hillock the first school of art was founded. Children were taught the rudimentary skills of art - what berries when crushed yielded what colors, what reeds were best at mixing, how to use sand. At the base of the hill the glorious painting stood inspiring young minds, while atop the hill young fingers and hands traced gazelles and trees and constellations on hard cold rock.
Art was born. The world would never be the same again.
Decades turned into centuries and the centuries in to millennia. Wind, water and the other forces of nature were busy at work changing the face of the earth. The human race grew and expanded into almost every corner of the world. They took art with them, architectural wonders were created, great masters drew masterpieces which people travelled around the world to see.
The discovery of an ancient cave painting in a forest in Africa was big news in the archeological circle, when carbon dating pointed to it being the oldest ever found, it even made the front pages around the world for a few days. It wasn’t long before a TV crew from one of the major documentary channels decided to go do a feature on what they called “The original masterpiece”. Experts on art were flown to Africa and there in a cave in the middle of nowhere they hypothesized about who had made these drawings and why, in hushed tones they intoned that this might have been the birth of human art.
The documentary ended with the experts standing speechless in front of the painting - it was a painting of a herd of wild cattle drawn by a seven year old child. Beneath the ground they were filming, covered in rubble and thirty feet of rock, the world’s first painting, the original masterpiece, lay forgotten.
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