The Moon and Sixpence with Gauguin

  British modern novelist Maugham’s novel “The Moon and Sixpence” tells the tragedy of an artist:
  a wealthy stockbroker with an enviable family, just in his prime, when his life has a bright future, he suddenly abandoned Wife and children, left London, went to Paris to paint. There was no appreciation and no market for his bizarre, bizarre paintings. Poverty drove him to the small Pacific island of Tahiti. There, he lived in harmony with the indigenous people and painted many oil paintings featuring beautiful tropical landscapes and the lives of dark-skinned women. These works later became rare treasures, but their author died tragically on this small island, not waiting for the day when his genius was recognized by the world.
  Maugham’s down-and-out artist was modeled after the Impressionist painter Gauguin. However, Gauguin’s wife, Mette, said that Strickland, the main character based on Gauguin in the book, is not like Gauguin. So, what is the difference between a real-life Gauguin and an artistic Gauguin?
  Gauguin didn’t run away from home
  In the novel, Somerset Maugham wrote mysteriously about Strickland’s resignation painting – he just left a letter to his wife on vacation in the country, saying: “I have made up my mind. Separating from you, I will go to Paris tomorrow morning. I will not come back. My decision cannot be changed.” As for what to do in Paris, he did not say. When Strickland’s wife was heartbroken, she commissioned a writer, the narrator of the novel, to go to Paris to find him, only to find out that he had left home to paint.
  And Strickland’s prototype Gauguin was not an Englishman, but a Frenchman who spent his childhood in Peru. At the age of 17, despite his mother’s objection, he was determined to become a sailor on a ship. In the past six years, he traveled with merchant ships and naval warships to many ports in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean, and finally became a second-class sailor. In 1871, the 23-year-old Gauguin bid farewell to his career at sea and entered the Paris Boudin Company as a stockbroker, under the influence of the company’s colleague and painting enthusiast Schoff. Have a hobby of painting. After the marriage in 1873, this love did not weaken, but intensified. He became a “Sunday Painter”, taking one or two days a week to paint in the studio of a painter he knew well. He got acquainted with the Impressionist painting masters such as Pissarro and Monet, and listened carefully to their views on painting. He also received the guidance of his brother-in-law and professional painter Thoreau. After participating in two painting exhibitions, in 1881, Gauguin’s oil painting “Observation of the Nude” with his maid as a model was exhibited in a group exhibition of Impressionist painters and won praise. In an article about the exhibition, a well-known art critic said of Gauguin’s “Observation of the Nude”: “I am not afraid to admit that among the nude paintings by contemporary painters, there is no work that truly expresses such excitement. It should also include the painters of the Courbet school.”
  This success made Gauguin more and more obsessed with painting. After get off work, he often doesn’t go home, go to the cafe where painters often go to chat, go to the gallery to see paintings, and go to the studio to paint. Later, he simply lived in the vacant house of a painter friend’s house, where there was a spacious studio where he could paint to the fullest.
  In March 1882, Gauguin participated in a large-scale exhibition with several of his landscape paintings. Unfortunately, this time there was little response. A reporter wrote in disappointment in the paper: “I don’t see the slightest improvement in Mr. Gauguin. Not a single painting is worthwhile this year. He is not like a calm stockbroker. His heart is always wandering with anxiety. Between the Sunday painter and the professional painter. If he wants to keep a comfortable and rich life, he must put painting in the second place; however, he is convinced that his talent is not only to play stocks, but to be a professional painter.”
  To be a “Sunday Painter” forever, or to quit his job at the stock exchange and become a professional painter, Gauguin thought about this question many times and was always hesitant. He knows his wife Mette very well. She pursues a wealthy and comfortable life. Besides, he is now the father of 4 children, the oldest is only 8 years old. Mette is pregnant with a soon-to-be born, What if Mette and her children are in trouble if she quits her job and has no income? As for himself, who is used to a rich life, can he stand the test of poverty?
  When he was undecided, he remembered what Monet once said to him: “A person can be called a real painter if he abandons all attachment to worldly concepts and only loves painting.” He thought that perhaps art could Make Mette go beyond the vulgar pursuit of material life and appreciate the beauty of life; and children, after all, will grow up and have their own lives, and he should not sacrifice his pursuit for the children’s lives.
  After a fierce inner struggle, he finally made up his mind. One day in January 1883, he solemnly announced to Mette: “I am going to quit my job at the Boudin Company. I have decided to become a professional painter.”
  Although Gauguin’s decision made his wife Mette dumbfounded, but , he did not abandon his wife and children, as Maugham wrote in the novel, to paint in Paris far away from London, but he did not leave Paris where their family lived for many years. Later, when his wife Mette and children returned to her hometown of Copenhagen, Gauguin still kept in touch with his wife and always looked forward to reuniting with his wife and children. Although his wife was very dissatisfied with his resignation to become a professional painter and hated his irresponsible behavior towards his wife and children, he never tried to divorce Gauguin.
  Gauguin’s sexuality
  Readers of The Moon and Sixpence may recall that there is a comical character in the book, the popular painter Stroeve. As a painter, he is very mediocre, but he has an extraordinary artistic appreciation. When others do not understand Strickland’s paintings, he has a unique insight and greatly appreciates it, calling him a great painter. And when Strickland was seriously ill and dying, he took him to his home and took good care of him with his wife, saving his life. However, when he left Stroeve’s house after recovery, Strickland “abducted” Stroeve’s wife. What’s even more abhorrent is that he then abandoned the woman, causing her to commit suicide by taking poison. Was Gauguin in real life just such an abominable villain? What principles did Gauguin follow in the relationship between men and women?
  Gauguin had many women in his life, but most of them were after he resigned to paint and his wife left Copenhagen, except for the occasional few times when he was a sailor. The first was Emile, the 16-year-old sister of the talented young painter Bonnard. This petite, weak and beautiful woman admired Gauguin very much, and had a similar experience with Gauguin: she disregarded her parents’ objections, ran away from home, and followed her brother to pursue the art of painting. Gauguin called her “dear little sister”, taught her to paint, painted her, walked with her, told her new and moving stories about his down-and-out life, and fell in love with her. This innocent and tender girl became Gauguin’s docile sex schoolboy, letting him unleash his strong, unbridled, unrestricted lust on himself. This sexual gratification also made Gauguin more excited by breaking the law, because according to the law at the time, inducing a girl under the age of 18 to have sex was a felony.
  In Tahiti, Gauguin changed a native girl to bed with him almost every day. It is said that this is a local custom, and the girl is proud to sleep with distant guests. He agrees with the primitive Tahitian conception of the body that differs from that of civilized Europe. In his “Notes to Elena” to his daughter, he wrote about the concept of sex: “In Europe, sexual intercourse is the result of successful love between men and women. Here, love is the fruit of sexual intercourse. Which is right? Our innate notion that it is a sin for a man or a woman to surrender a body is something worth rethinking. In any case, creating life can always be forgiven, and that is the most beautiful and sacred work in the world .It inherits the life created by the Creator. Men and women…their nature is love, a strange kind of love, a love that gives itself completely. A woman is only truly free when she gives completely, will feel healthy…”
  It is worth discussing whether this conception of sex endorsed by Gauguin is correct: just as the French thinker Foucault contracted AIDS through a very sexual experience, Gauguin also suffered from excessive sex life (sometimes he also went to brothel for sexual vent) and contracted syphilis and eventually died.
  Readers of the novel will probably not forget the Aboriginal wife of Strickland, who gave birth to him a son and stayed with him until his death. Gauguin does have such a “love tower” in real life. This is Tahiti, an indigenous woman from Tahiti. When Gauguin met her for the first time, she was only thirteen or fourteen years old, but her body was as tall and strong as a European adult woman, her breasts were mature and plump, her skin was smooth, her manners were soft, and her temperament was subtle, which made Gauguin fascinated. She cooked and did laundry for Gauguin, accompanied him in the bath, took care of all his daily life, and at the same time acted as his model and became a source of inspiration for him. Gauguin used her as a model to paint “Women of Tahiti”, “Daydream”, “Gaze of the God of Death” and other works.
  A year later, Gauguin had to return to Paris for reasons such as malnutrition, blurred vision, etc. Tai Hura hugged the child and watched Gauguin leave with tears in her eyes. Gauguin had no guilt or worry in his heart, he knew that the indigenous people did not have the custom of women keeping the boudoir alone, and the children would be raised in the new family like public property.

  Gauguin’s Death
  Maugham had his Strickland die of leprosy, blinded a year before. In fact, Gauguin died of syphilis.
  After returning to Paris from Tahiti in August 1893, Gauguin unexpectedly received an inheritance of more than 10,000 francs left by his recently deceased uncle. Gauguin who got the money got carried away. He rented a high-end apartment, found his former lover Juliet and their illegitimate daughter, and the three lived a comfortable life. Gauguin was almost a playboy at this point, and he was often seen strolling the streets of Paris, wearing a grotesque Russian shirt with a yellow-green pattern, a blue jacket with pearl buttons, and black pedals. Leather boots, a white-gloved hand holds a wooden handle with a cane inscribed with a pair of naked men and women intercourse.
  Soon, Gauguin fell in love with a sexy girl Anna. He took Anna to the ancient town of Pont de la Bretagne on the Brittany Peninsula in western France. One day, the locals clashed with Anna, who despised them. While protecting Anna and fighting with the locals, Gauguin fell on a rock and broke his leg bone. Due to long-term malnutrition and aging bones, the wound is difficult to heal, and even many friends feel hopeless for him, thinking that his legs may be bound by plaster bandages forever, and he will spend the rest of his life in bed. Seeing this scene, Anna didn’t want to accompany the wounded anymore, secretly got Gauguin’s money, and ran back to Paris alone.
  The uncle’s legacy disappeared like running water in Gauguin’s hands, and he could only go back to Paris to find a way.
  However, Paris was no longer his long-term place to stay. The hypocrisy, indifference and money-first principles of the civilized world are incompatible with his nature, and he yearns for nature and primitive tribes far away from the civilized world. Half a year later, in February 1895, he returned to Tahiti again to paint. Still, every night, indigenous women of different ages came to him to give him a hug, and sometimes even two or three women went to the small hut where he lived to have fun. Finally, the punishment found him, and he contracted the incurable syphilis. Every day, he had to lie in bed for several hours, waiting for the swelling and pain in his legs to subside, before struggling to get out of bed and hold a pen for a while. Before long, the pain struck again and I had to go to bed. In this way, he completed works such as “The Day of the Gods” under difficult circumstances.
  In April 1897, Gauguin suddenly got a bad news: his most beloved daughter, Aarena, died of pneumonia. This was a huge blow to his body and mind. In July, his condition worsened, and repeated high fevers completely collapsed his body. He realized that he was not far from death, and wanted to end himself while he could still move.
  But before committing suicide, he still had to paint a picture to bid farewell to the world and his relatives and friends. This is a huge oil painting, with a storyline and philosophical content, comparable to a biblical painting: the ocean and rolling peaks in the distance, in the woods by the river, babies, women and old women, showing the various stages of life and people’s life. destiny. He titled the painting Where Do We Come From? who are we? Where are we going? ”
  On February 11, 1898, he took poison and climbed a mountain, intending to die in the embrace of the nature he loved. However, God didn’t want him to die – the poison he brought was ineffective. Instead of begging for death, he suffered unbearable pain. The next day, he was able to struggle to climb down the mountain to ask for help.
  He lay in bed for more than two months. After thinking about it, he hated himself, how could he do such a cowardly and shameful thing. He swears that no matter what unimaginable encounters he encounters in the future, he will never allow himself to have such thoughts again.
  From then until his death in May 1903, it was the five years that Gauguin suffered the most from his illness and the five years that showed his strong will. During these 5 years, he not only worked diligently to paint (such as “Chests and Red Flowers”) and prepare for the exhibition, but also wrote his autobiography “Before, After”, which he wrote to the local government, newspapers and magazines, exposing the French colonial authorities’ rampant domineering on the indigenous islands. , the evil facts of bullying the indigenous people, trying to arouse the government’s attention and improve the living conditions of the indigenous people. However, his act of justice for the indigenous people was hated by local government officials. They falsely accused him of distorting the facts, spreading rumors and trying to incite a riot. This false accusation was upheld by the court, and on March 23, 1903, he was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment.
  On May 1, 1903, Gauguin’s condition deteriorated. Before his death, an indigenous old man stood by his bed.
  When the news came out, the indigenous people burst into tears, deploring the loss of the only white man who defended them, fought for their interests and equality, and was the only white man they loved.
  After Gauguin’s death, his paintings, sculptures and other works were auctioned in Paris to pay off debts. His last painting, “The Falls of Niagara”, was sold for only 8 francs.
  Gauguin said before his death that his paintings would be satisfied as long as they could sell for two hundred francs each. But after his death, his paintings were gradually appreciated, and almost every one of his paintings could sell for thousands of dollars. In February 1917, Somerset Maugham learned about Gauguin’s deeds in Tahiti. He heard that Gauguin thanked someone from the indigenous family for taking good care of him when he was sick, and painted pictures on each of the three doors of his house. A painting, immediately ask someone to take him to find the family home. Two of the doors have been taken away, and the remaining door is painted with a Tahitian night: a rabbit, a tree in full bloom, and it is still very well preserved. Somerset Maugham immediately offered to buy the door. The owner of the house asked for 100 francs. Maugham was in a hurry to buy the painting, so he hurriedly said: “I’ll give you 200 francs.” Fearing that the man would back off, he and his assistant hurriedly dropped the hinge, took off the door, and sawed off the lower half of the door. Light took away the upper half of the oil painting. In 1962, when Somerset Maugham sold his collection of famous paintings, the half door panel sold for $37,400. However, in the novel, Maugham changed the story of Gauguin’s painting on the door panel into a huge oil painting on the four murals of the hut where he and the indigenous woman Aita lived, and instructed Aita to put the hut after his death. Burn it along with the oil painting.

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