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Chapter 39 Part 1 - The Mysterious Art Museum

A street artist's life changed when he ended up at a mysterious art museum. DBT,Korean,Novel,Translation,Art,Artist,Slice of life,Poor to Rich,Mystery

To the Upper Class Society (11)

“This piece, called 'Meisje met de parel' in Dutch, was painted by Johannes Vermeer."

I walked around the covered painting, a presentation method I learned back in my university days from a professor, whose name I can’t even recall now.

Though fidgeting with hands or legs can distract an audience, moving a few steps with a straight posture can help capture their attention more effectively.

As I moved, watching the six eyes following me, I felt a silent gratitude towards that long-forgotten professor and continued speaking.

“However, Johannes Vermeer left no explanation after painting it. He mostly depicted ordinary, unknown people as his subjects. None of the characters in his paintings have known names or ages.”

I saw a hint of curiosity in Chairman Yoo’s eyes.

I knew exactly what that look meant.

Most people believe that a painting without an artist's explanation derives its background from the circumstances of the time and testimonies of those around. While this is true for some paintings, it’s not the case for this one.

As I grabbed the corner of the covered painting, I added,

“The story of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ as we know it is a fictional tale created by the American novelist Tracy Chevalier."

Chairman Yoo looked at his daughter in surprise.

Minyoung nodded to her father, indicating my words were correct.

I continued, now with Chairman Yoo's full attention,

"Tracy Chevalier wrote a book and eventually a movie followed, which sparked people’s imaginations, suggesting the girl with the pearl earring was actually the painter's maid who caught his eye one day and became the subject of the painting."

I moved behind the painting, holding its edges.

“Artists often find inspiration in the absence of facts. Like the novelist who used the simple fact of a girl wearing a pearl earring to unleash boundless imagination.”

Chairman Yoo nodded unconsciously. Good, the groundwork was laid.

“Every artist finds hints in these factual voids. For instance, let’s talk about Van Gogh's ‘Starry Night’. When he painted it, he was confined in the Saint-Rémy mental asylum, having cut off his ear. Did the night sky really appear that way to him?”

Perhaps it did, given his troubled state of mind at the time.

Scholars suggest that this painting hints at Van Gogh's impending suicide, especially because of the prominently drawn cypress tree on the left, a symbol often interpreted as signifying death since it never grows back once cut.

I shook my head with a raised index finger,

“Van Gogh’s asylum room had no windows. Meaning, he never painted ‘Starry Night’ while looking at the night sky.”

I clicked my finger as I continued,

“Yet, surely the night sky lived in his memory, as it does in all of ours. The silent existence of the night sky. The blankness in an object or life form without explanation, we call this the void of facts. And from here, all imagination begins.”

After my words, a brief silence followed.

Minyoung, making sure I had finished my explanation, finally spoke,

“I understand, but the connection between the portrait and the imaginative possibilities of these factual voids still doesn’t click for me.”

It was time to reveal the painting.

With sweaty hands from nervousness, I firmly grasped the veil covering the painting.

Despite the intimidating stares, I had to withstand them.

I placed the painting on a one-person sofa, as it was too large and had to be put on the armrest, but it was fine.

As long as it was visible at eye level, that was enough.

Standing beside the painting, I held it to prevent it from falling and looked at Mrs. Kang.

She was still smiling at me, and I returned an embarrassed smile.

“It’s not the best place for confessions, but let me add one more thing."

Though Minyoung slightly sighed due to my digressing again, I still wanted to say it.

“Working on this project, I experienced something I couldn’t understand myself, all thanks to today’s protagonist, Mrs. Kang Yoojung."

The family’s attention shifted to Mrs. Kang. She looked puzzled.

“It was probably the second time I met Mrs. Kang. Back then, she didn’t talk about herself but only asked about me. From a painter’s perspective, who needs to understand their subject, it was a foolish moment to be only answering questions in such limited time.”

Mrs. Kang chuckled, knowing she did that.

“She asked many questions. As you know, people tend to tell small lies when meeting someone new. Should we even call them lies? They’re tiny and meant to make one appear better or cooler to the other.”

For some reason, Chairman Yoo and Mrs. Kang exchanged smiles. I felt uneasy but continued nonetheless.

“I wanted to do the same. But strangely, those little lies didn’t come out. Why? Why did I share family stories with a stranger that I hadn’t even told my friends? I pondered over this after returning home. And I realized why I did that.”

Kang Yeosajang clasps her hands on her lap and asks, "Why?"

I quietly gazed at her face before responding, "Mother."


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