“Gulley’s old father in this book is taken from life and I, as a boy playing with paint in school holidays, remember very well the feelings of pity and surprise with which I looked at a gilt-framed canvas which he had brought out to show me, and propped against an apple tree among the weeds and cabbage stalks of a Normandy farm garden. I have an idea that it had just come back to him, rejected by the Academy which ten years before had been glad to hang his works. I remember my discomfort, as I realized that this man of fifty or so was appealing for sympathy from me, a boy of sixteen; that there were tears in his eyes as he begged me to look at his beautiful work (‘the best thing I ever did’) and asked me what had happened to the world which had ceased to admire such real ‘true’ art, and allowed itself to be cheated by ‘daubers”‘who could neither draw nor glaze; who dared not attempt ‘finish.’
“I was myself in 1905 a devoted Impressionist, one of the ‘daubers.’ I thought that Impressionism was the only great and true art. I thought that the poor ruined broken-hearted man weeping before me in the sunlight of that squalid vegetable patch, was a pitiable failure, whose tragedy was very easily understood–he had no eye for colour, no respect for pigment, no talent, no right whatsoever to the name of artist.
“I don’t know even now what that man’s work was worth. I suspect from recollection that in these days it would be once more highly appreciated. For several schools have intervened, and having worked through Impressionism and Post Impressionism, the Fauves and the Cubists, we can look upon the late Victorians with a fresh eye and judge them, outside the passing fashion, for what they really were.”
Joyce Cary, 1951 prefatory essay to The Horse’s Mouth