Strickland first goes to Paris and lives a destitute but defiantly content life there as an artist, lodging in run-down hotels and falling prey to both illness and hunger. Strickland cares nothing for physical comfort or needs, but is generously supported by a commercially successful yet unexceptional Dutch painter, Dirk Stroeve, who immediately recognizes Strickland's genius. After helping Strickland recover from a life-threatening condition, Stroeve is repaid by having his wife abandon him for Strickland. Strickland later discards the wife, who then commits suicide - yet another human casualty in Strickland's single-minded pursuit of Art and Beauty.
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 traveling to Tahiti, where he lived for a few years before finally dying of leprosy. Strickland left behind numerous paintings, but his [magnum opus], which he painted on the walls of his hut in a half-crazed state of leprosy-induced blindness, was burnt down after his death by his wife under his orders.
The inspiration for 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.
According to some sources, the title, the meaning of which is not explicitly revealed in the book, was taken from a review of Of Human Bondage in which the novel's protagonist, Philip Carey, is described as "so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet." Presumably Strickland's "moon" is the idealistic realm of Art and Beauty, while the "sixpence" represents human relationships and the ordinary pleasures of life.
MOUSE'S OUTPUT NO MODEST SUM NEW EP PROVES THAT EVEN BAND'S CASTOFF SONGS ARE KEEPERS.(Entertainment/ Weekend/ Spotlight)
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