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Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset (William Somerset) Maugham
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all events you can hardly refuse it the tribute of your
interest. He disturbs and arrests. The time has passed when
he was an object of ridicule, and it is no longer a mark of
eccentricity to defend or of perversity to extol him.
His faults are accepted as the necessary complement to his merits.
It is still possible to discuss his place in art, and the
adulation of his admirers is perhaps no less capricious than
the disparagement of his detractors; but one thing can never
be doubtful, and that is that he had genius. To my mind the
most interesting thing in art is the personality of the
artist; and if that is singular, I am willing to excuse a
thousand faults. I suppose Velasquez was a better painter
than El Greco, but custom stales one's admiration for him:
the Cretan, sensual and tragic, proffers the mystery of his
soul like a standing sacrifice. The artist, painter, poet, or
musician, by his decoration, sublime or beautiful, satisfies
the aesthetic sense; but that is akin to the sexual instinct,
and shares its barbarity: he lays before you also the greater
gift of himself. To pursue his secret has something of the
fascination of a detective story. It is a riddle which shares
with the universe the merit of having no answer. The most
insignificant of Strickland's works suggests a personality
which is strange, tormented, and complex; and it is this
surely which prevents even those who do not like his pictures
from being indifferent to them; it is this which has excited
so curious an interest in his life and character.

It was not till four years after Strickland's death that
Maurice Huret wrote that article in the
which rescued the unknown painter from oblivion and blazed the