n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - References to Gauguin paintings in Somerset Maugham's : original research

Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-2279
  • E-ISSN: 2219-8237



It has not before been noticed that in describing works of art painted by his fictional anti-hero, Charles Strickland, in the novel , which is loosely based on the life of Paul Gauguin, Somerset Maugham drew on actual works by Gauguin in his verbal descriptions. Sometimes the references are to specific paintings, at others to phases in his work. For readers familiar with Gauguin's artistic output, his writings on art and his biography, the effect of this insistent visual 'quotation' is to create a disturbing sense of aesthetic dissonance, in that it becomes difficult to accept the inarticulate, surly, impassioned but utterly grim and joyless figure of the fictional Charles Strickland as the source of these vivifying paintings, which possess their own real history and provenance. There is nothing in Strickland of Gauguin's child-like zest for life, his exuberance, his fantasies, his extrovert willingness to explain his art to friends and the public through fascinating if deeply unreliable writings. The reader must either attempt to blot all knowledge of Gauguin and his art from consciousness, thereby denying that Maugham is 'quoting' Gauguin's oeuvre, or else submit to an intolerable level of fictional incredulity and disbelief.

Dit is nog nie vantevore opgemerk dat in die beskrywings van die kunswerke deur die fiktiewe antiheld, Charles Strickland, in sy roman (losweg gebaseer op die lewe van Paul Gauguin), Somerset Maugham beskrywings van werklike kunswerke deur Gauguin gebruik het nie. Soms verwys hy na spesifieke skilderye, soms na fases in Gauguin se werk. Vir lesers wat Gauguin se kuns, sy skryfwerk oor sy kuns en sy biografie ken, skep dié knaend visuele 'aanhaling' 'n onthutsende estetiese dissonansie, omdat hulle moeilik kan aanvaar dat die woordarm, nors, passievolle maar onverbiddelik vreugdelose figuur van die fiktiewe Charles Strickland die bron kan wees van hierdie besielende kunswerke en hulle inspirerende geskiedenis. Strickland besit niks van Gauguin se uitgelate kinderlike lewenslus, sy fantasieë of sy uitbundige drif om fassinerende dog totaal onbetroubare uitsprake oor sy kuns teenoor sy vriende en die publiek te maak nie. Die leser moet óf al sy kennis van Gauguin en sy kuns uit sy bewussyn probeer vee, en daarmee ontken dat Maugham Gauguin se oeuvre aanhaal, óf 'n ondraaglike graad van skeptisisme en ongeloof aanvaar.

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