It’s all been painted before

Didn't I just paint this?

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago aware I was able to do things I had never been able to do before. My fingers twitched. I realized I was looking at things in a new way. I knew I was a painter.


I got my hands on a piece of canvas and searched for the oil paints that I had bought years ago when I thought I’d have a go at oil painting, it can’t be that hard, I’d said, but it was and I’d put everything away in a drawer.


Feverishly I painted. I knew what I wanted to paint. It was a vase with flowers. I painted from memory. I didn’t need to see the vase or the flowers. I didn’t copy from a photo. I created a painting of flowers that grew in my brain.


I painted all morning and most of the afternoon. I finished suddenly. I knew when the painting was finished, there was no doubt in my mind, no cautious last-minute brush strokes, no wondering about patching up this bit there or that bit there. My vase with flowers was done.


I called my friend Alberto. He and I share a lot of tastes in art and books and films and stuff and I wanted him to have a look at my painting and tell me what he thought of it. He laughed when I told him I’d painted a vase of flowers that day and promised to come and see it the next day.


Alberto took a long look at it, then at me. He looked as though he was going to say something, but said nothing until I said, “Well? What do you think?” and he said, “Well, it’s really good. I had no idea you mastered this technique” and I could see he had more to say, but he didn’t want to, so I asked him if he had anything else to say about it.


 “Why did you copy this painting?” he asked.




“Yes. I mean, it’s a nice painting, but why not paint your own?”


I was surprised, to say the least. Alberto then explained that the “original” was a painting by one Odilon Redon, a painter I had never heard of but there you go, I can’t be expected to know all the painters in the world, can I.


And, in fact, I’m glad I had never heard of Odilon Redon. That proved I had not copied the painting, that it was an original, it was MY original.


We looked for the Odilon painting online and there it was. Odilon Redon had got there before me. He had a thing about painting flowers in vases, I could see. He must have painted dozens of very similar paintings, flowers in vases. But I didn’t pay much attention to them. I shut the laptop down and immediately set about painting another vase with flowers, as soon as Alberto had left.

I know I painted this


No sooner had I finished, 24 hours later, I checked online and found the exact same painting had been painted previously by our friend Odilon. This was very weird. So I decided not to paint any more.

And who painted this?


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