Shades of Yellow or Big Story of Small Painting

The primary color yellow and its ochre is a natural earth pigment, found throughout the world, in many shades and hues. I associate them with the most beautiful shades of golden autumn when anyone could walk on a carpet of fallen leaves. This is how the idea of my painting “Beekeeper” was created; I want to paint with a full spectrum of yellows.

Many artists, myself including, have admiration for yellow. For instance, look into Chardin, Van Gough, Gustav Klimt or Picasso’s arts. The artists liked yellow for contrast and for highlighting or use it predominantly.

I wanted to use all shades and hues of yellow to create the image of an earthy person. My beekeeper is living in harmony with nature and its people. His soul is as transparent as his vision glasses, reflecting brightness of his mind, kindness of his heart and innocence of his conscience.

I finished the painting, and I took it with me to Germany. I was exploring the country, enjoying its landscapes and cuisine while preparing for a limited exhibition at the local gallery. Being clueless about what to expect of a different audience, I smiled all day long as I could not speak a word of German on the day of exhibition.

The visitors toured the gallery as usual, until one middle-aged gentleman, accompanied by some ladies, walked into the room. He viewed my work and then he stopped at the painting and could not move. His feet were glued to the floor as he focused his eyes on the painting. The image was stunning to him. Later, he told me of emotional waves of a biblical proportion going through his mind: he was looking into the mirror at himself. This is what I thought.

Seconds later, all people in the gallery noticed an uncanny resemblance between him and the painting. The entire atmosphere at the exhibition changed in the matter of seconds; the light switch was on! I couldn’t quite understand what happened, as people started talking to me, to the gentlemen and each other. We took autographs and pictures. Ironically, I was the last one who acknowledged the resemblance.

The German gentleman waited until the exhibition ended that day, and he bought the painting with tremendous gratitude.

I thought this is the end of the story – in some strange ways, the fictional character turned out to be so similar to the visitor. But I was really surprised at dinner when they translated the whole story for me!

On the canvas, the gentleman saw the image of his father, who was drafted into the German army, during the Second World War II. His father had never been to Russia before. As he stepped foot on the Russian soil, he realized Russia is a beautiful country for living, farming, harvesting and raising families, not for fighting, demolition, and death. On a broader scale, he realized that war is a criminal act against humanity.

He escaped the army and tried to hide in Italy. His family lived in a cave once, where his little daughter perished to hunger. He could not sustain that existence any longer and turned himself into the German authorities. They jailed him and sentenced him to death. However, he got extremely lucky as the war had ended a few days before his execution. He lived many happy years after that.

Indeed, the art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity. A smiling man, who walked into the gallery, saw a picture of his beloved father, who went to Russia once as a soldier and refused to fight and kill. A son saw a portrait of his father by a Russian artist, years later.

To this day, I believe it was the universe who was saying “Thank You” to the beekeeper for standing against war, one soldier at a time.

This is how my shades of yellow turned into a big story of a small painting.