As a collector of toy soldier things, I found this toy soldier postcard entitled Une page de tournée (“a turning page”) on Etsy for a few pounds. I was intrigued by the toy soldiers escaping from a battle illustration in a (French) book.
A little surreal … especially the connected or disconnected collection of objects around them:
A knight statue. Spider webs. Old French postcard. Unwritten postcards. Bound volumes or old books. Lautrec style Paris Moulin Rouge / Can Can print of group de Mlle Eglantine.
They carry light machine guns and look a little like chunky Airfix British Paratroopers or Atlantic ‘euro figures’. Presumably they may be ‘modern’ 20th century French Troops? Or generic modern infantry?
Some figures escape the page or several of the figures are still in the book, covering their retreat or just wounded.
Paintings like this are designed to provoke questions.
What are they escaping from?
Have they been defeated or routed?
What story are they in? Is it a history or a fiction story?
They reminded me of a modern version of the Bronte “Twelves” toy soldiers in the famous children’s book and the art installation at Bronte Parsonage Museum.
They reminded me also a little, albeit in modern combat fatigues, of the toy soldiers which come to life in E. Nesbit’s The Town in The Library, an Edwardian children’s book:
I knew nothing about Andre Martins but found a biographical note and digital print of my postcard here – https://www.artabus.com/martins/
“André Martins de Barros was born in 1942 in Pau, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrénées near the Spanish border. He married in 1974 and has two grown-up children.” Apparently he worked in Paris.
There was a very interesting quote about his work by Christian Germak –
“His painting are never simple; they tell more than the story depicted on the surface and are often deep philosophical statements in themselves revealing great thoughts, secrets and symbols. They can be poetic or full of humour.”
“Each painting belies more than than one interpretations and in some pictures you sense as he is playing with his characters arranging them as children would with their toy soldiers. Whether he is using books, bodies, horses or cans, it is all a game.”
Comment by Christian Germak (translated in English by Fiona Remnant)
How odd that he doesn’t mention “arranging them as grown men and women of a certain age would still with their toy soldiers.”
Christian Germak goes on to say about Martins’ work: “The artist’s ultimate aim is to lead us in his world of dreams and fantasy and in so doing offers us the opportunity to be surrounded by and confront our own philosophical thoughts and beliefs inspired by travels through the subconscious. Experience his work and enter his world.”
This makes me think that what we do, collecting and displaying toy soldiers in vignettes and dioramas or gaming with them, is quite similar to how Martins and other illustrators create character, scene and story along with tension, peril and emotion in a scene.
This could be said of the striking Airfix ‘Box Art’, especially for the figures and vehicles. A freeze frame from real life or a 50s 60s war film?
The same could be said of our gaming scenarios, diorama making and writers.
In some ways, painting, scriptwriting, (graphic) novels and TV scripts, some types of figure gaming and RPGs share similarities – they are all creative, character building, involve setting the scene, overcoming challenges and coming to some form of resolution.
There is an old writers maxim – “Impediment makes a narrative“, whether it is a fantasy RPG or historical War Game, a Hollywood script, TV or Radio cliff-hanger, theatre or musical performance.
This “Impediment” in our games is the contested pinchpoint of a bridge over impassable stream, the unbalanced force, the dice roll delaying the arrival of reinforcements, the ammunition running out, the Paratroops arriving off landing zone target …
What is written on the “turning page”?
What does the book say in Martins’ strange painting?
The illustrated page is captioned “[… dade] de l’ennemi” (… of the Enemy) and the other page
“… the war costing us nearly two billion a day … we must foresee the moment when the [re…] gold of our public treasury … be started, only to settle the orders that we have made abroad. Today we export less and import more. At present we find ourselves debtors of a few nations. Here are the realities.”
It doesn’t make much sense, being roughly translated using a French to English translation online website / program.
Blogposted by Mark Man Of TIN, 15 August 2022
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Another artist who collected and featured ‘toy soldiers’ in his art – Andrew Wyeth