Ways of Seeing
John Berger, Chris Fox, Sven Blomberg, Michael Dibbs, Richard Hollis
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John Berger’s Classic Text on Art
John Berger's Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about which the (London) Sunday Times critic commented: "This is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures." By now he has.
"Berger has the ability to cut right through the mystification of the professional art critics . . . He is a liberator of images: and once we have allowed the paintings to work on us directly, we are in a much better position to make a meaningful evaluation" —Peter Fuller, Arts Review
"The influence of the series and the book . . . was enormous . . . It opened up for general attention to areas of cultural study that are now commonplace" —Geoff Dyer in Ways of Telling
Winner of the 1972 Booker Prize for his novel, G., John Peter Berger (born November 5th, 1926) is an art critic, painter and author of many novels including A Painter of Our Time, From A to X and Bento’s Sketchbook.
accept the total system of publicity images as we accept an element of climate. For example, the fact that these images belong to the moment but speak of the future produces a strange effect which has become so familiar that we scarcely notice it. Usually it is we who pass the image – walking, travelling, turning a page; on the tv screen it is somewhat different but even then we are theoretically the active agent – we can look away, turn down the sound, make some coffee. Yet despite this, one has
Rose, the Royal Gardener after Hendrick Danckerts, c. 1630–78/9, Ham House, Richmond 101 Mr Towneley and Friends by Johann Zoffany, 1734/5–1810, Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Burnley, Lancashire 101 Triumph of Knowledge by Bartholomew Spranger, 1546–1611, Vienna Gallery 102 Three Graces Decorating Hymen by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1723–92, Tate Gallery, London 102 Ossian Receiving Napoleon’s Marshalls in Valhalla by A. L. Girodet de Roucy-Trioson, 1767–1824, Château de Malmaison 103
the visible no longer presented itself to man in order to be seen. On the contrary, the visible, in continual flux, became fugitive. For the Cubists the visible was no longer what confronted the single eye, but the totality of possible views taken from points all round the object (or person) being depicted. STILL LIFE WITH WICHER CHAIR BY PICASSO 1881– The invention of the camera also changed the way in which men saw paintings painted long before the camera was invented. Originally paintings
Anne and St John the Baptist than any other picture in their collection. A few years ago it was known only to scholars. It became famous because an American wanted to buy it for two and a half million pounds. Now it hangs in a room by itself. The room is like a chapel. The drawing is behind bullet-proof perspex. It has acquired a new kind of impressiveness. Not because of what it shows – not because of the meaning of its image. It has become impressive, mysterious, because of its market value.
wear fig-leaves or make a modest gesture with their hands. But now their shame is not so much in relation to one another as to the spectator. ADAM AND EVE BY MABUSE, EARLY 16 CENTURY Later the shame becomes a kind of display. THE COUPLE BY MAX SLEVOGT 1868–1932 ADVERTISEMENT FOR UNDERWEAR When the tradition of painting became more secular, other themes also offered the opportunity of painting nudes. But in them all there remains the implication that the subject (a woman) is aware of