May 23, 2018

Just Read || Artworks in Jeffrey Archer's False Impression

After reading Jeffrey Archer's False Impression, I was eager to search for images of the paintings Archer mentioned in it, since I had not recognised some of them. Imagine my surprise (and then my "Well, duh" moment) when I discovered that many of the paintings mentioned did not exist and were part of his artistic licence. Obviously he would invent artworks to go along with his imagined world and people.

The events take place during and after the chaos of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the setting makes an ideal situation for a sneak attack by lead character Anna Petrescu. Anna works for Bryce Fenston, a man with an assumed identity, a love for Impressionist masterpieces, and a lack of sympathy that allows him and his bank to take over rich estates (who happen to have impressive and valuable art collections). Petrescu fails to work with Fenston's plan to swindle the Wentworth Estate out of its collection and just after she is booted out of the company - the sole person with the knowledge of what Fenston is planning to do with the Wentworth Van Gogh - the first plane flies into the WTC, where the bank's offices are located.

Petrescu manages to escape relatively unscathed and while everyone thinks she is dead manages to come up with a convoluted plan to allow the Wentworth Estate to sell the Van Gogh to cover the debt owed to Fenston Finance. What follows is a rush of an adventure as Petrescu travels into Canada, Romania, Japan, and Britain to rescue the Wentworth Van Gogh from the slimy paws of Fenston. Of course, she does have to dodge a hired assassin and an FBI agent who has been following her for months. But that's an easy task for a woman of Petrescu's talents.

This is the first Archer novel that I've read and once I made it through the introductory exposition, I could hardly put it down, mostly because I wanted to find out if my ideas about the twists would follow through. Which they did, a little disappointingly.

I enjoyed the art references, though, especially since Impressionism is one of my favourite fine art styles. I recognised the artists mentioned, but not the paintings, as I've said before. It turns out after some (I lie - a lot) of Googling, many of the artworks are simply made up or altered titles of original artworks by the artists concerned.

For your viewing pleasure, below is a list of artworks referenced in the novel that do exist, and below that, artworks I think may have served the basis for the names Archer references in the novel.

True Artworks:

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, Van Gogh [21]

{Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear by Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

Geishas in a Landscape [28]


Black Marilyn, Andy Warhol [41]

Study of a Mourning Woman, Michelangelo [52]

{By Michelangelo Buonarroti (Getty Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

This piece was auctioned in 2001 for a final bid of 6 million British pounds.

Guernica, Picasso [192]

{By Moleskine - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons}

The Polish Rider, 'Rembrandt' [276]

{By Rembrandt - The Frick Collection, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Titus, the Artist's Son, 'Rembrandt' [277]

{Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

Sunflowers, 'Van Gogh' [277]

{By Vincent van Gogh - Digital photo by User:Postdlf, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Vincent van Gogh did many paintings of sunflowers. See the works here.

The Madonna of the Pinks, Raphael [278]

{By Raphael -, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

The Scream [361]

{Edvard Munch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

Fictional Artworks (with possible inspirations)

Sunset over Plymouth, Turner [20]

{By J. M. W. Turner - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by RHaworth using CommonsHelper. (Original text). 3 March 2009 (original upload date). Original uploader was Dino at en.wikipedia, Public Domain, }

Dancing Class With Mme Minette, Degas [28]

{The Dance Class By Edgar Degas -, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Shot Red Marilyn, Andy Warhol [41]

Rothko [92]

In reference to Mark Rothko, an abstract expressionist.

{No 61 By Mark Rothko, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Fair use, Wikimedia Commons}

Willows at Vetheuil, Monet [245]

{Water-Lily Pond and Weeping Willow By Claude Monet - flickr, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}
However, when it was described in the novel, I actually pictured this one:

{Water Lilies and the Japanese bridge By Claude Monet - [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Madame Duprez and her Children aka The Reading Lesson, Renoir [246]

{Mme. Charpentier and her children By Pierre-Auguste Renoir -, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Dinner at the Cafe Guerbois, Manet [246]

{The Cafe Concert By Édouard Manet - GgEZL0iu5Gl9FA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

The Beresteyn Family, 'Rembrandt' [277]

{Portrait of a Man, probably a Member of the Van Beresteyn Family By Rembrandt - Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Satan Devouring His Children, 'Goya' [277]

{Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco de Goya - [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Rosetti mistress Jane Burden [345]

View from the Bedroom, Matisse [376]

{Landscape viewed from a window, Tangiers By Henri Matisse PD-US, Wikimedia Commons}

The Dancing Instructor, Degas [376]

{Dance Exam By Edgar Degas - repro from art book, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Street Sweepers, Caillebotte [376-7]

{Les raboteurs de parquet By Gustave Caillebotte -, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Reapers in th Field, Van Gogh [377]

{Wheat Field behind Saint-Paul with Reaper By Vincent van Gogh - repro from artbook, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

The Marriage at Cana, Caravaggio [399]

The below painting is by Paolo Veronese, but Caravaggio was a contemporary and possible competitor, so it is plausible that this might have been a subject he was interested in, too.

{The Wedding at Cana By Paolo Veronese, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}

Perseus and Andromeda, Tintoretto [400]

Tintoretto never attempted this subject, but he lived around the same time as Titian, and his version may have been similar.

{Perseus and Andromeda By Titian, Wallace Collection., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons}


I hope you enjoyed this journey into the art world with me! Have you read Jeffrey Archer's novel? Which of the paintings above are your favourite? I'd love to hear your opinion in the comments below!
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May 9, 2018

Disturbing Disney || Toy Story, or The Abuse of a Child

Toy Story is Pixar's flagship animation, having changed the terrain for animated films forever. Its genius is based on its ability to appeal to both parents and children, and make a s**tload of money. Who couldn't love affectionate yet jealous Woody, clueless and self-absorbed Buzz Lightyear, and all the other loveable characters?! Well, me, obviously.

The film has never been one of my favourites. I think I'd only seen it once until my daughter showed interest and wanted to watch it. Needless to say I have now seen it more than a couple of times, but it has still not grown on me. I used to think it was because of Tom Hanks, but I actually like him, as an actor...

I simply don't like either of the main characters. For toys who claim to be in existence simply to make Andy happy they're terribly self-absorbed and way too focused on politics and status. Sure I understand Woody is at the top of the food chain because he is Andy's favourite toy and the hero of his imagination, but his desire to stay at the top is unappealing. Especially because he claims to have such an altruistic view of life with Andy. That Woody is so ready to confront the new toy and tell him he is in Woody's 'special' spot on the bed indicates to me that this is not the first time Woody has enforced his tyrannical rule over the toys. Why do I get the feeling that when Andy ever had a new favourite toy, Woody would have claimed the top spot for himself, even if he were no longer the favourite? Mr Potatohead's snide remarks about Woody's fear of being replaced reflect Woody's feelings and I sort of picture Mr Potatohead quietly witnessing Woody expelling the competition from under the covers (and perhaps out of the window - hey, if he was so comfortable doing it to Buzz...) once Andy is asleep or has left for school, and he sort of holds this over Woody for the rest of his life. Everything may have been different had Woody not been forced to find Buzz.
With Buzz, I feel like he is pretending to be unaware of his status as a toy: why else would he also become still when Andy is in the room? Is he really just following the other toys' lead, as though Andy is some all-powerful god? Or is it more sinister? It would make a lot of sense if Buzz was actually a device planted by an alien race on Earth to monitor its children with a view of invasion, especially since Buzz's personality is so specifically defined by his default language, and he happens to be a Space Ranger. I just feel like his character arc didn't change much for him. He starts off confident and self-assured, and despite the climax of his growth seeing him withdraw into despair, he ends off confident and self-assured, albeit he now has a friend. Hell, Woody's character arc parallels his: he starts off confident and self-assured, realises during his climax that he should make space for new toys, and ends up being confident and self-assured, albeit he now sees Buzz as a friend. Neither have actually given way. Both now share a leadership position. I get the point, that they are now 'sharing' top position, compromising and what have you. But this does not reflect any reality any child will grow up into.

So like I get that Toy Story is really Friendship Story, and it's about how two people who at first dislike each other are thrown together in a manner that makes them understand and thus empathise with each other, opening up the way for a friendship. It is about not judging a book by its cover (or a toy by its box), as seen by Woody initially thinking Buzz was 'pretending' to not know he was a toy and even by Sid's mangled toys who are all simply misunderstood. It is also about accepting change. So I get that the film has a moral message for our innocent children.


I just can't like it.

There's the making fun of the emasculated dinosaur.

There's the speed at which Woody was able to turn evil when he was faced with a little competition.

It's the gloating and self-important manner Buzz has around him, which yes I know is part of and necessary to his character as a Space Ranger but which just grates me as a hero of a story. And really, how could he not see it was freaking momentum driving his first flight?! As someone who's familiar with space he should know the basics of physics.

It's the whole mob mentality of the toys who claimed to be Woody's friends but suddenly turn on him when he's no longer the favourite.

It's the fawning over Buzz Lightyear and the toadying, you know, reflecting our current society's predilection for over-appreciating glamour and beauty and fake lasers and gimmicks and selfies and setup social media photos.
The biggest thing for me is the whole revenge-on-Sid-the-toy-abuser scene because I can't help but think of his creativity and his imagination as he's playing with these toys, and how their revenge on him will affect his imagination and creativity going forward. Sure, he is destructive but the purpose of the toys is after all to aid in growing these two skills and when they scare him, I can't help but imagine that where he had seen himself as a doctor saving a life by transplanting a head or as a rocket scientist launching a rocket into space, he will now be too afraid to do anything like that ever again. The poor kid was likely sent away for medical and/or psychiatric treatment and would be afraid of everything for the rest of his life. I mean, seriously, after starting out with all that imagination and ambition, he straight up ended being a garbageman. So I know that the idea is to show that since Sid was such a nasty piece of work he only became a garbageman - it was what he deserved for torturing toys - but I am certain it is because of the psychological damage he suffered and not because of character flaws. Sid, after all, did not know that the toys are 'alive' and in my opinion an actual indication of a character flaw would be, say, Sid abusing his actual living dog. Or maybe it's because it feels weird that the villain of the film is a child. A child.

And then there's the fact that they break their contract to interact with Sid. If they really loved their boy, why wouldn't they actually interact with him? That would make more sense - toys gaining confidence and trust in their children and then really playing with them. Not taking revenge on a child and scarring him for life.

And I didn't enjoy the music.

But maybe that's just me.

{Lead Image Credit: Facebook/PixarToyStory}
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