It was hardly his magnum opus, the critics agreed, but the painting of the artist’s wife was still put on full display in the gallery.
The next day, the newspaper published a short article about the artist who had dedicated a year of his life perfecting his wife’s likeness. Beside the article was a picture of the artist and his wife beside the painting. His wife was undeniably gorgeous, smiling with her head tilted at the perfect angle for the shot.
No one who attended the opening noticed that his wife did not speak that night. Many, however, noticed that the portrait was, for some reason, much less attractive than the living subject. Whereas the artist’s wife looked somehow younger than she had on their wedding day, the portrait was of a woman who had begun to show signs of her age. Laughter lines and crows feet had begun to creep over the painted face. Grey hair had begun to spread through chestnut locks. Her posture was slumped as though exhausted.
There was also the issue of the expression. She looked much more reserved than the beaming woman on the artist’s arm. Despite this, critics noted a sharpness in the eyes, as though she was keenly aware of a viewer’s presence.
But the artist drank and accepted compliments, all the while proudly holding onto his smiling wife. His wife who would never age, never speak, and never disappoint him.
In the coming years, people paid less and less attention to the painting. Its expression changed so slowly that no one noticed the creeping look of horror on her face.
On the day the painting was retired, the curator wondered why on earth an artist would paint a portrait of his wife screaming in terror.