If you had asked Wally Davis what he did for a living he would’ve told you he was a painter, or a “painter of dreams.” This was not the whole truth. Sure, he had some original works on the walls of his home, but those dated back to his college years. Since then, he had begun to take Picasso’s statement, “Great artists steal,” literally. The vault in his basement contained proof of his profession, as did the size of his bank account.
Wally had made enough money to retire, but he found the thrill of the chase too hard to resist. He once stole a Rembrandt right out from under the owner’s nose. The owner just invited Wally in for dinner, and then just fell asleep. How weird is that?
So…Wally was a painter, but mostly to cover his tracks. He would paint copies of the works he stole so he could replace them at the scene. By the time the victim realized they were robbed, months later, Wally would be a faded memory. Most copies took a little over a month to complete, but Wally had one in particular that he couldn’t get right.
For over ten years Wally continuously went back to a lesser-known painting from Monet’s “water lilies” series. This painting was brighter than some of Monet’s others, with bright red flowers in bloom. Some people might suggest that recreating an abstract painting is easier than a classical painting. This is wrong for two reasons. The first is that, abstract paintings depend on balance and tone just as much as traditional works, but the details are harder to pick apart. The second reason was that Wally had loved Monet’s “water lilies” since he first viewed a collection at the Museum of Modern Art at the age of six. Monet was intimidating. Yes, to him Monet was more intimidating than Da Vinci. Personal tastes make the world more interesting.
After adding an extra touch of green to the water’s shimmering surface, Wally took a step back from the canvas.
“Finally,” he said, “It’s ready,” and so he planned to carryout the heist that very night. He had scouted the home multiple times, and knew exactly where the painting was hung. He parked his car out-of-sight, and snuck around bushes to the left side of the Carrington Mansion. The painting in his arms prevented his being as nimble as he would have liked, but the property was dark, and ideal for hiding.
He soon found the window to Mr. Carrington’s office. Unfortunately, the lights were on, and Mr. Carrington was on the phone, facing the far wall and admiring the Monet–Wally’s Monet. The flowers were perpetually in bloom over the cerulean pond just as Wally remembered. Wally stared at its details, and more he admired, the more he realized that his painting could not compare. So, he turned around, and went back home.
For weeks, he kept to his bed. Wally couldn’t remember ever feeling more like a failure. “Copying is your job,” he scolded himself in the mirror, “Who are you if you can’t copy.” He repeated this to himself for days until he realized the ridiculousness of the statement. He analyzed his personal works and realized that they stood well on their own, and his skills had surely improved since then.
He accepted that he wasn’t as talented as Monet (at least not yet), and that was all right. There was only one Monet, and there was only one him. From then on, Wally Davis was happy. He painted his own dreams instead of somebody else’s, although; occasionally he did go back to the Monet. “Just for practice” he said, but the Carrington’s should stay on their guard.
This story was written by Alex Schattner (8/8/12)