The Moon and Sixpence  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
The Moon and Sixpence (1919) is a book by William Somerset Maugham based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin. The story is told in episodic form by the first-person narrator as a series of glimpses into the life of the central character, Charles Strickland, a middle aged English stock broker who abandons his wife and children abruptly in order to pursue painting.

Strickland first goes to Paris and lives a destitute life there, lodging in run-down hotels and falling prey to both illness and hunger. Strickland finds support from a successful Dutch painter, who, after helping Strickland recover from a life-threatening condition, is repaid by having his muse and wife abandon him for Strickland.

After the Paris episode, the story continues in Tahiti. Strickland has already died, and the narrator attempts to piece together his life there from the recollections of others. He finds that Strickland had taken up with a native woman and started painting profusely. We learn that Strickland had settled for a short while in the French port of Marseilles before travelling East to Tahiti, where he lived for a few years before finally dying of leprosy, leaving behind a fantastic legacy of vivid pictures on the walls of his hut. In his last days he paints with blind eyes, to the dismay of his loyal wife who had stayed with him till his last moment, even though leprosy is believed to be very contagious among the natives. However, this great artistic achievement is burnt by his wife under his order.

The basis of this story, Paul Gauguin, is considered to be the founder of primitivism in art. The main differences between Gauguin and Strickland are that Gauguin was French rather than English, and whilst Maugham describes the character of Strickland as being ignorant of his contemporaries in Modern art, Gauguin himself was well acquainted with Van Gogh. How many of the details of the story are based on fact is not known. However, Maugham had visited the place where Gauguin lived in Tahiti, and purchased some glass panels painted by Gauguin in his final days.

The book was filmed by Albert Lewin in 1943.

See Also

Mario Vargas Llosa's 2003 novel The Way to Paradise is also based on Paul Gauguin's life.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Moon and Sixpence" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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