In the year 1901, Paris, France crawled with starving artists. Art stores weren’t faring much better, and their prices had ballooned accordingly.
The sharp ringing of the shopkeeper’s bell announced the presence of a potential customer. The clerk, a tall, bald-headed man, emerged from the backroom.
A short young man nodded at him.
“I’m Marcel, owner of this shop,” the clerk said. “How may I help you?”
“I just arrived in Paris,” the young man said. “I’m a painter without paints, brushes, or canvas.”
The shopkeeper’s brow wrinkled. “How is such a thing possible?”
“Simple, my luggage was stolen at the train station.”
“I should enquire what can I do for you, but I know what you’ll ask of me, and my answer would be that I can’t extend credit.”
“I beg of you, monsieur. If I can’t paint, I shall die.”
The shopkeeper sighed deeply. “I have some low-grade canvas, some used brushes, and a few tubes of paint, which I’ll let you have on credit. I’m sorry to say that I must reserve my better-quality supplies for cash customers.”
“Great! Inferior is better than nothing. I’ll take one tube each of cadmium red, yellow ochre, and—”
“No, no, no, the paint I can afford to give on credit is cerulean blue, no other colors. I have more tubes of it than I know what to do with.”
“Alright, I’ll take whatever you can spare.”
The shopkeeper gathered the supplies, added up their total, and put them in a bag. “It comes to one hundred and eighty-one francs,” he said, opening a ledger. “And your name is…?”
“Pablo Picasso, at your service.”