Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 401
Gulley Jimson, an aging unconventional artist, ex-jailbird, and occasional thief who has sudden grandiose inspirations for big paintings on such subjects as the Fall and the Creation but who, dogged by ill luck, cannot manage to finish them. His only paintings anyone wants are nudes of Sara Monday, which he did years ago and which he cannot get from her or from Hickson, who obtained most of them. After Gulley accidentally kills Sara, he returns home and paints furiously, trying to finish the Creation before his arrest. In a fall from his scaffold, he suffers a stroke from which he awakes in an ambulance taking him to jail.
Sara Monday, Gulley’s onetime model and former mistress, now a fat, frowzy old woman. Visited by Gulley and Coker, she signs a statement that she let Hickson have the paintings she stole from Gulley, and she tries vainly to reawaken Gulley’s old interest in her. She refuses to give up a few of the nudes which she kept and which she likes to look at, wistfully remembering her former beauty. The last time Gulley attempts to get a painting from her, he angrily pushes her down the cellar stairs and breaks her back.
Coker, a barmaid, a short, stout, homely woman to whom Gulley owes money and who makes repeated efforts to get it by buying paints for his pictures and urging him to get some of Sara’s pictures from Hickson. When she becomes pregnant and loses her job, she moves into Gulley’s shed with her mother.
Nosy, a young aspiring artist, green-eyed, hay-haired, and flat-nosed; a stammerer. He worships art and Gulley, and he helps Gulley with his painting of the Creation.
Mr. Hickson, an elderly art collector who obtained from Sara a number of beautiful nudes, which she had stolen when she and Gulley broke up. Though he obtained them legitimately, he is willing to pay Gulley a small sum when Gulley visits him about them. On Hickson’s death, the Sara nudes are given to the nation, and Gulley becomes famous.
Professor Alabaster, a critic who plans a biography of Gulley.
Sir William Beeder
Sir William Beeder, Gulley’s benefactor, a wealthy art collector whose London apartment (during Sir William’s absence) Gulley appropriates and ransacks for pawnable items in order to buy canvas and paints.