A struggling painter takes on a commission that promises him fame, but may cost him his soul.
Francis is a struggling aspiring artist who receives an unusual proposition from a mysterious art dealer during another of his fruitless exhibitions. In return for restoring and old oil paiting by an obscure artist, Benjamin Brooke offers to represent and propel him into stardom. Claiming that his employer is a rich and influential man, Benjamin convinces initially hesitant Francis.
From the very moment Francis sees the painting, it has a beguiling effect on him.
Working on the painting sets off a strange series of events that become increasingly threatening. It seems like more and more of the painting leaks out to haunt Francis in his real life. Worse still, an inexplicable and sinister male figure in the painting, the gentleman, seems to develop a life of his own. Every time Francis paints him, the figure reappears in different parts of the composition.
When the visions can no longer be ignored, Francis demands an explanation from Benjamin. Never denying the visions, Benjamin manages to placate the artist and get him t finish the job.
Francis returns home and confronts the Gentleman who has reappeared again, menacingly close to the edge of the canvas. Francis works feverishly through the night and finishes the restoration, erasing the gentleman a final time. But only moments later, a terrifying transition frees the painting’s menacing prisoner, who turns out to be Benjamin’s employer.
At a private showing organised by Benjamin, Francis’ paintings sell out, marking the beginning of his artistic legacy. But the price Francis pays for his fame is high indeed – he has traded places with the Gentleman and is now trapped inside the painting he restored.