PURELY FOR MY PLEASURE
During his long life William Somerset Maugham created a collection of art which was known and respected the world over. Prior to selling them off later in his life for a variety of reasons, he published the collection in "Purely For My Pleasure", a slim volume of picture plates with a short accompanying story of the collections history.
Muagham's art collection was a very personal one and the story of its development as detailed in the book is full of anecdotes; "I made the acquaintance of Matisse. He was bedridden...I bought two of his paintings". His Gauguin was from the south seas island of Tahiti. Gauguin had done a painting on the door of a hut. Maugham, visiting the island while researching his book "The Moon and Sixpence", paid the current resident two hundred francs for it, unscrewed the door, and carried it back to his car. He mentions that Renoir had lived not far from him on the Riviera.
So reknown and respected was Maugham as an art collector, when he turned down writing the screenplay for the movie version of The Razor's Edge, in lieu of a cash payment, the studio offered him a rather expensive Impressionist painting, an offer he immediately accepted. In the end the studio eventually used another person's screenplay, but they allowed Maugham to keep the painting for services rendered.(see)
W. Somerset Maugham was keenly aware of the importance of style. He had made himself into the epitome of an English gentleman using this sense. Reading his works you soon find his knowledge of style and period was encyclopedic. Being a firm believer that one must stay informed and current, he took pains to evolve his own writing style to change with the times. Thus his art collection reflects too, the tastes of the times.(see)
W. Somerset Maugham was also a collector of 'theatre art', that is, where the subject matter of a piece is drawn from the theatre. Included in this collection are two of those pieces.
Below is a list of the paintings from the book in their original order. Because of the amount of data transfer required for all of the paintings to be shown all at onetime on one page, each painting can be viewed on an individual basis by clicking the painting's title in red on the list below:
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE OTHER THAN THE MAHARSHI:
SRI RAMANA AND W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
THE HOLY MAN, LARRY DARRELL, INDIA, AND THE RAZOR'S EDGE
Interestingly enough, in 1937, veering away somewhat from his own collection or personal interest in Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, and others prominent in the avant-garde European art scene, Maugham selected an American artist known for being a member of the Ashcan School named John Sloan to create sixteen etchings for a special two-volume deluxe edition of his novel Of Human Bondage, each volume containing eight original etchings by the artist. For Sloan himself it was an unusual and welcome departure as well as he had been participating mostly in a variety of WPA projects on and off over the years with no significant private-level commissions.
To see images and additional information regarding Sloan's etchings click the graphic below, then scroll down the page clicking the images that come up:
(please click image)
THE QUAI SAINT-SEVER, ROUEN, CAMILLE PISSARRO 1896
Early on in the 1960s Maugham decided to sell his rather extensive art collection. In conjunction with that thought he put together a book of his collection containing background stories or snippets surrounding each if not all of the paintings titled Purely For My Pleasure, published in 1962. In his book, when Maugham discusses the painting he received for his work on the screenplay for his novel The Razor's Edge in lieu of being paid, Maugham tells how he received a telegram from Darryl Zanuck, the Vice-President in charge of production at Twentieth Century Fox, telling him that the script they had was not satisfactory and asked Maugham to go to Hollywood to work on it, telling him he could name his own price. Maugham wired back that he would be happy to come to Hollywood, but did not want to be paid for any work he might do, he just wanted to ensure that the best possible movie that could be made on his book would be. In Purely For My Pleasure Maugham sums up the results of his not wanting to be paid:
"When Darryl Zanuck had got over his astonishment he suggested that George Cukor should bring me to see him. On the following day I was ushered into the presence and Darryl Zanuck told me that in return for the work I had done (none of which, incidentally, was ever made use of) he would be glad if I would buy myself a picture at the expense of Twentieth Century Fox. I told him that I would like it very much. 'You can't buy a picture for nothing,' I added. 'What would Twentieth Century Fox be prepared to pay?' 'Anything up to fifteen thousand dollars,' Darryl Zanuck replied. I had never bought a picture at such a price before and I was thrilled. I thanked the Vice-President effusively and a day or two later set out for New York.
"I hesitated to go round the picture dealers by myself. I did not think they would trouble to show their best pictures to a rather shabby old party who did not look at all like a purchaser; so I asked a friend of mine, a director of the Museum for Modern Art, to come with me and advise me. We spent several delightful mornings looking at one picture after another. There was one picture that particularly attracted me. It was a scene of the harbour at Rouen by Pissarro. It may not have been such a fine picture as others I saw, but it pleased me. After all, Flaubert was born at Rouen and, when he was writing Madame Bovary he must often have paused to look at the lively view. It existed no longer, for Rouen had been badly bombed during the war. Finally, however, on the advice of my friend, whose judgment was sounder than mine, I bought a snow scene by Matisse. But I could not get the Pissarro out of my mind; I thought I should always regret it if I did not have it, so I exchanged the Matisse for it."(source)
Although this page has long since taken on a life of it's own, having gone through various stages of modification and editing since falling under the auspices of the Wanderling, Rick Bateman was instrumental in the early stages of the original and is given credit for the inspiration behind it.
Bateman was born in Montreal, Quebec on December 28th, 1953. For you Myers-Briggs types, he is an INTJ; a Capricorn for you astrologers. In his own words, here a list of things he is interested in and keeps his eye on:
"I enjoy reading about psychology, sociology, and anthropology. These days, given my responsibilities as a senior manager, I am involved in the study and practice of leadership, business organization and communications.
I break it up with fiction when my brain gets full. The fiction I read is mostly 'turn of the century' literature: Somerset Maugham, Edith Wharton, Joseph Conrad, Jane Austen, etc. For romance and adventure, the late Victorian Era is just my cup of tea.
I am also a big fan of anything about the Roman Empire, particularly Roman Briton. Either that or "hard" science fiction of the Clark/Asimov variety (or their inheritors: Brin, Bova, and Benford). My current science interest is astrobiology because I believe we are only a part of the real intelligent life form of the universe - DNA. I like mythology because I think it is the way we dimly perceive this vast entity.
I am a person of faith. I have studied the history, philosophy, and psychology of faith for many years and believe faith to be a very real requirement for mental and physical health. My studies focus primarily on the works of Ken Wilber and my practice follows the teachings of the Dalai Lama."
A teacher, performer, author and practicing Buddhist, Rick lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
FROM THE ORIGINAL MAUGHAM PAGE
WITH THANKS TO:
THE W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM CENTER
(NO LONGER ACTIVE)