Art: Unforgettable Self-Delusion

The harpies of legend, having once gripped an artist, are slow to let go. One of their regular victims has been Paul Gauguin. The image of the painter has been yanked, tugged, tortured and distorted by a succession of novels and films starting with Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence.

Moon provided a legend of the theatrical kind that Gauguin himself invited. Here was an archetypal rebel against bourgeois civilization, who quit a prosperous job on the Paris Stock Exchange to find his true artistic self in Tahiti among brown innocents, baptized anew in...

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