Pairing Book Recs With Artwork || John William Waterhouse [CC]

Pairing Book Recs With Artwork || John William Waterhouse [CC]


Hello everybody, my name is Cara, and today
I am here with a weird kind of recommendations video. Sometimes I run into books that I really really
love and that I want to recommend to people, but I can’t really explain them. Or maybe I can explain them, I can describe
the plot and the characters or the writing, and I can give you these concrete reasons
why I enjoyed the book, but one of the most important features is just like the vibe or
the feeling or the atmosphere. And that’s kind of what I’m trying to communicate
to you guys, is like if you’re in the mood for this particular like feeling or vibe,
then I think you would enjoy this book. And then I started thinking about how that’s
very similar to how we view artwork, like you can talk about the color palette and the
brushstrokes and the subject of the painting, but one of the most important things is like
looking at a picture or looking at a sculpture or whatever, and the way it makes you feel
or like the emotional response it [creates] because it’s such a visceral experience. So I decided to like put those two things
together. Today I am going to be pairing pieces of artwork
with books. And if this experiment just kinda doesn’t
work for you, like if you don’t really get the feelings from the paintings or if my explanations
don’t really make sense to you, that’s totally fine! You still got some great books to check out. By the way, I am not an art student, I am
not trained in any way, I just like books, and I like paintings, and I decided to put
them together. So the artist whose works I am going to be
describing and using today is John William Waterhouse. He was a painter during the late 1800s and
early 1900s and he was one of the capital “R” Romantics. He painted figures and scenes from poetry,
from plays, from history, from mythology, from epic poems, from the Bible: he did a
lot of different kinds of work. And one of the things that I really enjoy
about his work is that he painted really complex and interesting women. Sometimes it seems like a lot of the artists–like
a lot of his contemporaries at the time pretty much just used women as attractive like set
dressing for the painting, like for the setting or you know maybe they did use the female
as the main character but she was primarily there for eye candy. And in John William Waterhouse’s works, even
though most if not all of the women are still very attractive, I feel like they were still
allowed to have stronger expressions; they were allowed to be angry or frightening or
powerful, like they were allowed to have interesting emotions in addition to being beautiful and
to kind of fitting into this ideal painted version of themselves. So I tried to pick a mix of books here like
kind of different genres and different styles, and a couple of them are ones that I have
talked about before, but a couple of them are ones that I haven’t really featured on
my channel. The first painting I want to talk about is
Pandora. It was painted during either 1896 or 1898. I kind of did the best I could with the dates
because some of them are a little tricky to pin down. And the book that I kind of equate with this
painting or with the feeling this painting gives me is Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. Here’s the cover so you can see it a little
better. Everyone kind of knows the story of Pandora:
she opened the box when she wasn’t supposed to and she basically brought misery down upon
the whole human race. But something that I find really interesting
about Deathless and about this painting of like the story of Pandora, is that there’s
this discussion of responsibility and free will and choice and like in the original Pandora
myth, she was given like a burning curiosity by the gods; they gave that to her on purpose
because they kind of wanted this to happen or they wanted to see if this would happen. So that kind of–to me, that brings up the
question of whether or not Pandora is completely to blame for what she did. People kind of use her as the scapegoat for
bringing like destruction and misery on the world, but if somebody caused that to happen,
is it really…is it really all her fault? And the reason that kind of reminds me of
Deathless is something I loved about this book so much, is that all of the characters
are making decisions that even if you don’t agree with, you can kind of understand why
they’re doing them. Even–even if you see them doing something
that you’re like “this is a mistake, this is a disaster, like don’t do it, don’t open
the box!” Even though they make decisions that you know
are mistakes, you–in that moment you agree with them or you–you feel that same need
to do something that they do. And I find that really impressive because
one of the most frustrating things for me when I read a book is when a character does
something that is obviously gonna cause problems down the line, and it’s like they didn’t even–they
didn’t even stop to consider the consequences. And in Deathless, that doesn’t really happen. Like even if they’re doing things that I think
are stupid, I’m like “well, I don’t really see what choice you had. Or like given your character and given the
situation you’re in, I get it.” And then another thing I love about this painting
that I also really enjoyed about Deathless is like the setting. So this really dark forest that you can see
in the background, it’s really shadowy and it’s beautiful but it’s a little bit frightening
and there are one or two settings in the novel in particular that really gave me that feeling. it’s like very Old World fairytale, like these
are not–these are not happily ever after kinds of stories, but you’d still go into
the woods anyway. That’s kind of the feeling I get. And that’s another reason why I think this
painting is a good representation of the weird spooky fairytale atmosphere that I got from
the book. The next painting I want to talk about is
Cleopatra. And this was painted in 1887. Now this is probably one of my favorite images
I have ever seen. I like to refer to this expression or this
look as the “I could crush you beneath my feet and you would thank me for it” look. That’s kind of what I–what I think of this
expression as. And the book that I think–and specifically
the character–that I think really works with that is The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen
Turner. This is the second book in the Queen’s Thief
series. And the title character is just so wonderful,
she’s very similar to Cleopatra in my opinion because she’s this brilliant strategist, this
incredibly complex woman, who a lot of people around her kind of write her off as a figurehead
or as just this beautiful woman who somehow got where she is even though she doesn’t have
any of her own skills or value. Just like this whole feeling I get of like
feminine power and with the–the value of feminine things is just really important to
me. I love seeing that represented in books; I
get really sick of seeing women who like wearing dresses or who enjoy like makeup or who like
traditionally feminine hobbies…I get really really tired of seeing them vilified or criticized
by the other characters in the book, or even sometimes it seems like by the authors. So something that I really loved about the
Queen of Attolia is that she uses all of it. It’s somewhat unusual for a woman to be in
the position that she is, and she’s fine with that. And it’s also unusual for a woman to be comfortable
with that, and with being really like, kind of what we would call girly, and I also really
loved that. So a quick note about the series is I have
seen a lot of people say that you don’t have to read the first book, I think–the first
book is just called The Thief, that you can just go right to this one. And you probably could? I read the first book before reading the second
one so I can’t say definitively if you would be confused or not. But I think that some of the things that happen
in this book, like the way the story unfolds and revelations about characters and things
like that, I don’t think they would have meant nearly as much if I hadn’t started with the
first book and gotten kinda the background of the world and sort of formed these opinions
about other characters or other things in the books. So I would really recommend starting with
the first one, but if you start it and you’re like “I don’t like this at all, like I’m not
gonna read this series” then just skip it and go to the second one because it feels
very different in tone to the first one and this is just such a fantastic book; I need
to continue the series soon but I’m kind of savoring it. The next painting is one a little bit lighter
in tone and that is called The Toilet [pronounced toilette]. It was painted in 1889. So in comparison to that last couple and actually
to a lot of John William Waterhouse’s other paintings, this one is a lot brighter, it’s
a lot more peaceful-looking. And the book that I kind of get this feeling
from is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It’s kind of a perfect book to talk about
in this video because one of the things that I love about it so much is also the hardest
to explain, and that’s like the feeling, kinda the mix of like comfort and melancholy and
also like sweetness that I get from this book. And that’s also what I get from this painting. So we have these two women who are kind of
like getting ready and bonding or you know spending time together; I think of them as
two sisters which is also perfect for I Capture the Castle because it is primarily about a
family with two sisters and how they kind of react when a family of Americans moves
into their kind of countryside area (this is set in England), and the eldest daughter
becomes determined to marry one of these American men in order to save their house or castle
that they live in from basically descending into ruin because they live in very genteel
poverty at this point. And it is like a very light and comedic and
engaging novel; I feel like the tone of it is very like sweet and charming without being
overly so. But there are some kind of like darker moments
or darker undercurrents in the story that I think are also really interesting. *silly voice* So getting into symbolism here,
as you can see in the background of the painting, there is some plant life that is sort of like
taking over the like garden area, like there’s like this very meticulously laid out garden
and then there’s all this like greenery and it’s almost a little bit wild looking. And that’s kind of how I feel about I Capture
the Castle, is it’s got this like veneer of civility and of like very civilized comedy,
and that kind of British classic feeling, but underneath that there are some darker
things going on. Like the family, the main character and her
family are afraid they’re going to lose their house at some point. And there are also some darker elements with
the relationships themselves, with like the desperation of, of her older sister Rose and
from her perspective, she NEEDS to marry somebody, in order to save her family. I think that really brings out the other aspects
of the novel is having that light and charming atmosphere kind of contrasted with the darker
aspects of the book as well. I think it makes both halves of it feel more
real, because they are kind of like put next to the other one? Is that making ANY sense at all? There’s also a pivotal scene in the novel
that takes place in kind of a garden/greenhouse kind of area, and that–that’s also what I’m
reminded of when I look at this picture, too. And finally, the last painting/book combo
I’m going to talk about today starts with The Beautiful Lady Without Pity, and this
was painted in 1893. It is also known by its French name which
I am about to hopelessly mispronounce, and that is La Belle Dame Sans Merci. And the novel I’m going to talk about is one
that I have mentioned kind of briefly on my channel and that is My Cousin Rachel by Daphne
du Maurier. Daphne du Maurier is of course known more
for her novel Rebecca, but I enjoyed My Cousin Rachel even more than Rebecca I think. And I feel like it’s a little bit underappreciated
when put next to some of her more famous works; I think it is becoming more known now because
of the new movie that just came out but I think this is just such a fantastic novel. And I feel like it really perfectly fits the
kind of symbolism and the like depictions in this painting. So “the beautiful lady without pity” is Death,
that’s kind of important to know going in. As you can see in the painting, there is the
beautiful woman, or Death, and there is a knight who is kind of ensnared by her. And if you look closely, she’s actually got
him wrapped in her hair. Like she has literally ensnared him with this
symbol of feminine beauty, like with her hair, and that is such a good representation of
the character Rachel from the novel. But something that’s so interesting about
the novel is–is seeing the very different ways that it’s possible to interpret her character,
to interpret Rachel. Because is she–is she using her beauty and
perceived helplessness to like ensnare helpless men, or is she like the victim here and she’s
just, she’s–she’s looking for someone to rescue her, liek there are so many ways to
interpret her and even after reading the novel, it’s like–I have so many mixed feelings,
I’m not exactly sure what I think happened and it’s so interesting to go and read reviews
for this book after you’ve finished it ’cause there are some people that are just like so
convinced of this one thing, and there are some people that just are like me and have
like no idea what really happened but they loved it anyway. I just think that’s so encapsulated in this–in
this painting, and another thing I want to point out is that the male figure in the painting
is a literal knight in shining armor and that is very appropriate for the novel as well
because part of what I think gets Philip [the main character] into trouble is this need
he has to protect someone whether or not they actually need it or want it and how that kind
of misleads him into certain situations and how it makes him misjudge people. I think that’s such a good metaphor for like
his need to like protect what he perceives as like this helpless beautiful woman, and
whether or not that’s actually the case is a different story. Okay everybody, so that is all I have for
this video *pause and awkward “ta-da” gesture* I don’t know how this is gonna turn out, I
had a lot of fun doing it, I think it’s a really cool way to talk about books that you
know their–their central like thing that drew you to them or that made you enjoy them
is something that is a little hard to communicate to people in words, so that’s why I did paintings,
you know…worth a thousand words. Please let me know if you guys have read any
of these books what you thought of them or if you’re planning to pick any of them up. I will see you soon with another video, and
I hope you love the next book you read. Bye!

Dereck Turner

15 thoughts on “Pairing Book Recs With Artwork || John William Waterhouse [CC]

  1. BetweenLinesandLife says:

    This was super super super wonderful! I adooreeed this idea! Which probably isn't a surprise 😛
    Waterhouse is one of my favorite artists, especially love his interpretation of the Lady of Shalott.

  2. Badger Reads says:

    I love this idea of pairing books and art! The feel/vibe of a book is usually what I love most about a book but that’s the hardest part to explain to people!

  3. BookCave says:

    I absolutely love this!! The connections you made between the books and the paintings were so thoughtful. Sometimes, I'm in the mood for a very specific reading vibe rather than a particular genre or plot, and these recommendations addressed that so perfectly.

  4. Silje says:

    This was fantastic 💖 Love the paintings.

    I read My Cousin Rachel earlier this summer and I loved it. As you I'm not quite sure about Rachel, but I think that is why it still lingers in the back of my head.

    Thank you for making this video. Hope your day is good 💖

  5. Linh Hermione says:

    Ooh this is such a lovely idea!
    I’d never heard of this artist (I’m not hugely into art overall) but I really want to look into him some more now, as well as all these books! They were almost all on my TBR already, but I feel like I have a much better idea of them now, so this definitely worked!
    Ahh I don’t remember much about I Capture the Castle, but from what I do that painting is so perfect for it!

  6. yogi with a book says:

    I love this idea so much. The way you described Deathless was just so perfect and I’m totally with you on being more about the feel or a book then the plot sometimes.
    I Capture the Castle is one I’ve had on my radar for a while, but this totally moved it up. I would love if you did more recs in this series!

  7. Bibliofilth says:

    LOVE THIS! I haven't read all these books but I have read Deathless and that painting is the perfect pairing. Definitely going to tab this video for later when I'm looking for new books to read.

  8. emmanovella says:

    I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!! sometimes words can't express what a book encapsulates so I LOVE when people use other forms of art (or other books, I suppose!) to give a vibe for a book!!! This is genius! 😀

  9. Rainy Days and Stormy Nights says:

    This was so, so well done and such a wonderful idea!!!!

  10. Cozy Reader Kelly says:

    This was really fun! Sometimes it is hard to describe a book especially when it’s the atmosphere that is the best part.
    I loved I Capture the Castle! That painting does really fit. There is charm and beauty yet still contains a wild and untamed spirit.

  11. Olivia's Catastrophe says:

    This is such a unique and cool idea! I love what you said about his artwork at the beginning makes so much sense! I totally see it in the paintings featured. And wow, his artwork is beautiful. The matching was done so well and I Capture the Castle has me intrigued.

  12. BookishLadies says:

    Wow, what an amazing and unique idea! I loved how you found a way to combine different types of art into this awesome recs video. Also, are you planning on making this a series with different artists/eras/etc.? I would definitely be interested in seeing more! – onka –

  13. chandler ainsley says:

    this was excellent! i loved seeing all of the art & the book pairings… amazing

  14. as read by holly says:

    this was honestly so amazing and unique! I love this idea!!! you should make this a series, I'd love to see more <3

  15. TheWordN3rd says:

    This was such a unique book rec video! Love it!

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