Manhwa Review | A Painter Behind the Curtain by MUNAMU



There will be spoilers for the series A Painter Behind the Curtain.

Trigger Warning: There may be references to abuse, confinement, overwork, plagiarism, child abuse, child abandonment, human trafficking, rape, violence, assault, manipulation, sex work, sex workers, sexual harassment, arson, classism, execution, religion, extortion, drugging, blood, drugs, mentions of arranged marriage, murder, death, excessive drinking, , sexism, war, sextortion, gossiping, starvation and disordered eating, PTSD, and kidnapping, as it appears in the manhwa.


Ian is a prolific artist, but no one knows it. His artwork is sold for high prices, prized in exhibitions, and hanging on the walls of some of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom. Yet, Ian lives in squalor, starved and frail. He is a prolific artist, but he doesn't even know it. Ian has had a talent for art since childhood but was forbidden from pursuing his passion due to his family's low standing and poverty. Unfortunately, his work is noticed by a noble, the head of the Bardi family, a family of prolific artists. Bardi wants Ian and is willing to pay a premium for the child.

Unable to decline his offer, Ian's family sells him off to the Bardi family; all the while, Ian is being lured with promises of being able to paint to his heart's content. Ian sees this as a dream come true until the reality of his situation comes crashing down on top of him. Ian has been enslaved. He's kept in a closet where he is broken and beaten, trained relentlessly in the techniques of painting until he can do so without any reference. Once he's completed a painting, the second son of the Bardi family, without any talent for the arts, signs his name to the piece, passing it off as one of his own.

Ian can't even dream of anything beyond this torturous horror he's trapped in, the only comfort being that he can still paint. That is until a mysterious and eager merchant named Raymond comes by, requesting a portrait from the Bardi family. Raymond's coin is all the Bardi family cares about, but once Raymond sees Ian, Ian is all Raymond seems to care about.


The art in this is rough. It's inconsistent and often just not that nice to look at, which is ironic, seeing as a major focus of this story is art. The cover is the prettiest it gets and is a little deceiving with how nice it looks. However, I think this totally works for this story. As we read the story, we are inundated with beliefs and opinions on art by nobles, artists, and commoners alike, leading us to question what constitutes “good” art. The art presented throughout the story drawn by Ian is prettier than the art in the work. The art of the series itself emphasizes the art drawn by Ian. It adds so much more meaning, and I love it. While I wouldn't say the art of this series is my preference, I can appreciate what it does to call upon the role art has in our lives, regardless of opinion, preference, or background.

Cover art for A Painter Behind the Curtain on TappyToon

While the art isn't my preference, this story is everything. It gives off Rent Boy vibes, but this is everything I wish Rent Boy had been. Like Rent Boy, we have a large . In this case, Ian is a beaten, battered, and repressed painter. However, both in the case of Rent Boy and this series, our top is someone struggling to obtain power, though for Raymond, it is all on his own. One of the main things I despised about Rent Boy was the ending, which left the bottom behind the proverbial curtain, confined forever for the sake of the top. This does the complete opposite, which brought me so much joy.

While Ian initially tries to suppress his wants and needs for Raymond's sake, it eventually leads to him leaving Raymond (though not of his own volition). On his own, Ian relearns why he enjoyed painting. He truly finds himself, and while Raymond had taught him about the larger world, it was through a narrow lens. Independent, Ian gets to explore the world as it truly is, seeing the ugliness and cruelness alongside the beauty and peace. He finds a balance within himself and outside himself, which makes him a much stronger person in the end, leveling the playing field somewhat between himself and Raymond. This newfound strength, ability, and knowledge allows him to say goodbye to Raymond, even after Raymond has come to find him. We start the story with him at his lowest and end with him at his highest, a fitting and satisfying conclusion in its own right.

But maybe more impressive than even Ian's development is the development of Raymond. From aspiring and selfish nobleman to the reveal that he is a vengeful orphan, having clawed his way back up from abject poverty for the sake of revenge, to someone on the cusp of immense success, only to drag himself back down to anonymity in order to be with the person he wants. Raymond put himself and his success above all else, even at the risk of his own happiness. He and Ian, while having such a significant social gap, are actually so much more alike, having both been emotionally suppressed for most of their lives, whether by force or choice. Raymond is about to achieve all he ever desired: power, status, and revenge, but he realizes it would all be meaningless without Ian, aka his happiness. Ian found power within himself, while Raymond found power with another person, and they're both stronger for it.


I so desperately want to call this a favorite. I adore this story and the character development we see from both of our main characters, but I must admit that the art is just too much out of my preference to call it a favorite. There are a few works that I call favorites despite the art because the story is just too good. This is right on the cusp of that line for me. I highly, highly recommend this because the story is just too good to miss out on. Just know that the art might not be up to par. It's still so, so worth it.

Have you read A Painter Behind the Curtain? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!

Click here to read it for yourself!

Comment Below!