An Anonymous Patron to an Artist, ca. 31,000 BCE

I don't care what the hip trendsetters say, I know what I like

Hairy Chest-

I must say I am disappointed with your new painting. When I agreed to sponsor you 1 and 3/4 moons ago, you assured me that you would not cause a stir like you did with your last painting, “Hunt.” I defended you then, and you know I am a defender of artistic expression. When Hairy Toe at Our Cave Monthly called it “not looking like a bison,” I wrote a stern letter arguing that perhaps our children would not be so shocked to see other animals besides bison near our cave. Now you have gone too far.

You know as well as I that the Druids believe very strongly that painting a person on a wall will cause the Moon Goddess to move the bison to Across the River Where It’s Really Deep. And we both know that the tribal council went Druid last Sun Cycle. You could cost both of us quite a lot of  Stone Arrowheads with this stunt. I know you’ll tell me it’s a mammoth in a wolf skin jacket, but we both know what the meaning of it is.

You are skirting a fine line, Hairy Chest. People like paintings of bison. Nobody wants to see prints of your hand. People aren’t ready to see colors that aren’t “Clay.” And certainly nobody wants to anger the Moon Goddess. If you continue with this foray into perversity, I will have no choice but to rescind my patronage. Please, Hairy Chest. We are friends from since before War With Tribe In Forest and we fought together in War With Other Tribe in Forest. Give the people what they want. Paint some bison.

Respectfully,

Crooked Nose

Analysis:

Crooked Nose was one of the first great patrons of the arts, a forefather of the Medici Family. Of course, in 31,000 BCE, one “commissioned” a painting by agreeing not to hit the artist in the skull with a large rock until he was finished. But in his way, Crooked Nose was a true lover of art.

In fact, he invented the term “art” to describe the cave paintings he commissioned. Not long after, he began using the phrase “artistic expression” to describe the artist’s face right after he pummeled it with a large rock.

Likely, Hairy Chest knew that Crooked Nose would probably smash his head in with a large rock eventually, and that he might as well paint what he wanted in the meantime. This philosophy was of course shared by other modern ancient artists.

Hairy Chest is believed to have been a student in the studio of the great Jumps Like A Bear, who once painted a single eyelash onto a cave wall and was summarily executed. It wasn’t until the 19th century that art critics discovered it was much more effective to crush an artist’s spirit than his head.

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