"That's how artists change the world. They see beauty that is overlooked by the fashion of the day. Then others come to their shows and see in their turn, and so the truth of beauty is preserved. Except they don't come, and the truth is lost."
from All the Hopeful Lovers
by William Nicholson
Impossible not to think of poor Vincent van Gogh as I read these lines in William Nicholson's novel; Van Gogh who only sold a handful of paintings in his lifetime, and whose talent was only recognised after his death. Of course, the truth of beauty isn't lost as the artist in the book claims, however deeply he feels, in his disappointment, that it is.
Wandering around the garden with my camera, I was struck by the simple truth of spring blossom against a blue Provencal sky, as depicted by Van Gogh in his Almond Blossom series, a version of which I saw at Les Baux the other day:
William Nicholson is the kind of writer-artist who has an eye for telling detail, but all in a remarkably fluid and easy style. I came to this novel after loving the first of his I read, The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life, a story - as is this sequel - of intertwining relationships and intimate thoughts. If you haven't discovered him yet, I suggest you treat yourself to his gentle (and not-so gentle) observations that might make you see the world a little differently.
The characters in his fictional Sussex countryside are instantly recognizable but Nicholson's masterly dissections pin their inner lives to the page to offer insights that have the weight of universal truths. Connections between individuals - some loose, some close - as their lives interweave seem judicious rather than forced for the sake of a story. Just like real life, in other words, but with all pretence gone: closely examined and enhanced in order to offer understanding. Which has to be the aim of art in any form.
In such a mood of admiration and reverie, I stood staring for a long time at the quince, the way the warm rose of the buds fades to a shell pink. How could I use it in my own writing? How many quinces will result from such a profusion of flowers...? The fruit is a knobbly brute of a hard yellow pear, but the flavour is delicate and subtle. If you leave them around the house in autumn, they release a fragrant aroma that is supposed to banish any mustiness. There might be something in that...