This is the title
to a book
by W. Somerset Maugham
, copyright 1919
. The book was inspired by the life of the painter, Paul Gauguin
, but is not biographical.
The main character, Charles Strickland, begins in the novel as a very boring, mundane man. He works in finance and has a wife and children, but ends up leaving his family. He travels across the Atlantic to Paris so he can pursue painting. He refuses to exhibit or sell his artwork. He sinks into poverty and illness but seems quite oblivious to everything except his need to paint.
This book deals with the mystery of art. What is artistic genius? Why are some people driven to create art at the expense of their lives and livelihoods?
I read this book for a local bookstore's reading group and enjoyed it. The fact that it is inspired by Gaugin kind of mired some people's interpretation of the book, but since I knew very little about the painter, I didn't have any conceptions interfering with my reading. I thought this was a very interesting book.