Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing

John Berger’s Classic Text on ArtJohn 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...

DownloadRead Online
Title:Ways of Seeing
Author:John Berger
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Ways of Seeing Reviews

  • Deborah Palmer

    This book though initially written in 1972 is still relevant to the reader today especially the essays dealing with the way women are seen in society. It is composed of seven essys, four use words and images, three only images. It discusses how women are view in society with an emphasis and concentration on European or Western culture. The images are from ads and famous European paintings. Being that I work in a museum and see paintings all day long this aspect interests me in particular.

    Basical

    This book though initially written in 1972 is still relevant to the reader today especially the essays dealing with the way women are seen in society. It is composed of seven essys, four use words and images, three only images. It discusses how women are view in society with an emphasis and concentration on European or Western culture. The images are from ads and famous European paintings. Being that I work in a museum and see paintings all day long this aspect interests me in particular.

    Basically the book is saying that in our European based culture women are objects, men are subjects. Men survey, women are surveyed. Since women are always on display in our society, they adjust their behaviour in order to please and fit in with our male dominated society.

    I reference this book many times in my own personal writings. What Mr. Berger has written still has value today. Actually in many ways not much has changed for women. We in the USA and Western Europe are a little better off because we can work, make money and have legal rights but that is not true for women in the rest of the world. Living in a Democratic or secular society does give women more control over their lives as opposed to dictatorships and theocracies. However even in the United States our actions as women and men are based on social constructs and society's defintions of how men and women should behave towards each other. Even how women view and interact with each other to the point that women are very competitive, jealous and vindictive in order to get or keep a man. But that is another story for discussion in the essays I have written.

  • Trevor

    This book is based on a television series which can be viewed on YouTube here:

    This is a really remarkable series and a remarkable, although annoying, book. The book is annoying because it should have been a coffee table book with large colour photographs and large font – instead it is a Penguin paperback with a font tending towards the unreadable and grey scale reproductions of the paintings that make them almost impossible to view. This is agonising, as

    This book is based on a television series which can be viewed on YouTube here:

    This is a really remarkable series and a remarkable, although annoying, book. The book is annoying because it should have been a coffee table book with large colour photographs and large font – instead it is a Penguin paperback with a font tending towards the unreadable and grey scale reproductions of the paintings that make them almost impossible to view. This is agonising, as really all you will want to do is studying and think about these images for hours.

    There is something we sort of know, even if I suspect we are completely wrong in our intuition. We have been, as humans, looking at pictures for a lot longer than we have been reading books. For the vast majority of us, literacy is a disturbingly recent invention – perhaps a hundred , maybe a hundred and fifty years for people in the first world. Churches told their Biblical stories as much in images as in words. For a long time even here the words were spoken in a language that was not understood by those listening. Learning how to read images, something so many of us assume isn’t something we need to learn, but rather is somehow immediate, takes an entire culture and also takes perhaps as long as to learn how to read. To understand how images work on us – how we are manipulated by them – that takes at least as long as it takes to learn the same things about how words work on and manipulate us.

    So, on one level this book is an exploration of the history of oil painting and what such paintings ‘mean’ – mean to us now in comparison to what they meant to earlier generations of people in Western societies. Because the Western tradition of painting is quite a separate thing from any other ‘world art’ traditions.

    He starts by saying that paintings are both still and silent. This is an interesting thing to say, because how we generally experience paintings today – or at least, learn about them – is through shows like Sister Wendy’s World Tour of Art or Simon Schama’s Power of Art. Don’t for a second get me wrong here – I loved both. But the art works displayed are anything but still or silent. There is a voice track and there is a panning and a zooming-in that turns these still and silent works into something approaching a cartoon. I had never considered the implications of this before. The painting stops being what it is, in fact, cannot remain what it is on the screen, it stops being an object that the artist created so as to speak for itself, and now requires someone to mediate between it and us, to either speak over it (explain it) or to orchestrate it (quite literally, with music) so that we are taught the proper way to read this painting.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how we ‘read’ paintings and images, particularly after reading a book called Reading Images: the grammar of visual design. It is interesting that in that book it is clear that linguistic grammar has been used as a way to structure our response to the grammar of images – quite effectively, I think – but this is almost counter-intuitive. If we have had a more immediate relationship with images than with written text, why is it that we need to use the organising principles associated with written texts so as to seek to understand images? Why doesn’t that work the other way around? I know in part this is because language has been formally codified, but this, again, raises the question of why images are so resistant to such codification. Why would it be daft to explain what a verb is by reference to Mona Lisa’s eyebrows?

    The relationship between being naked (being without clothes) and being nude is presented here in what I take to be feminist art criticism. A nude is not merely someone without clothes – it is almost invariably a female and she is also on display, an object. In many ways she is not really the protagonist of the painting, even when she is the only person in the painting – the other person that is always present is the anonymous male viewer towards whom she is on display. He shows image after image of nude women, and even while being embraced, they are turned to the viewer, turned to their true lover, their fantasy lover, for not only are they the screen on which we project our lust, but also the reason for our weaknesses – they are, in the end, to be lusted over and to blame. No wonder they are invariably passive and languid. After corrupting the whole of male humanity, how could they not look exhausted?

    And that is actually the point – it is only today that a painting can be seen by quite so many people. They were never intended to be seen other than by the very few. Today paintings are pretty much what Plato said of them, representations of representations – but as such they are a demonstration of just how wealthy the owner really was. Paintings put on display the wealth of their owners – and that was a large part of what had been their purpose. Here’s me, and here’s the missus, and we are standing in front of our house, this is our bedroom, these are the oranges we have shipped in from Spain, this is our cow and, despite the late summer sun setting, these are our furs.

    The last program in the series looks at advertising and how it uses and distorts the language of paintings, to which it is the last dying breathe of a tradition spanning back 500 years. In oil painting we are looking at the current wealth of the owners – there is a now-ness about these paintings – this is what I look like now, this is what I own now – the fact that it is always ‘then’ in images is something everyone has become more aware of now we have cameras and something Barthes explains beautifully in his Camera Lucida. Time stops in the image, and as such all images are images of death. Life immediately marches away from them, leaving them as pure memory. So, paintings are always about the present and, as such, thus also immediately about the past – the present being just the past in waiting.

    But marketing images are always about the future, never about the present. Selling something is about creating a desire and that desire is not here and now, it is sometime soon. In many ways advertising doesn’t sell products – it sells envy and desire. As he points out, the rich people in oil paintings are not glamorous – glamour is beside the point. To be glamorous the viewer needs to want to emulate the people they see in the images – but the people who own paintings see themselves – so, there is no need for glamour. To sell product you need to sell a fantasy and that fantasy needs to be just out of reach, but obtainable though an exchange not actually part of the image, an exchange of money for a good, but that exchange is the point of the image. That capitalism needs such constant exchanges and that advertising creates the desires that fuel these exchanges is the open secret of our society. That said, I’d never considered the relationship with time that this creates before – how, to be economically valid units, we need to be constantly living in a fantasy future, while also being prepared to put up with just about any boredom in our all too prosaic present. No wonder advertisement is uninterested in now, it needs to be – it needs to negate now for what is to come.

    The book also draws a distinction between how we advertise to the working class (the promised transformation is based on Cinderella) and the middle class (the promised transformation is based on The Enchanted Palace) – for the working class buying this one product will be enough to transform you into the princess, for the middleclass investing in this bank will bring you all of the good things in life, which are, of necessity, an ensemble.

    There is so much to think about in this tiny book and this short series of films. I watch shows like this and I think, imagine what television could have been – but, of course, it could never have been anything of the kind. This is very much the exception that proves the rule. So, to see what television could never have been allowed to be, watch this and then go back to reading books.

  • Pierce

    First of all, this entire book is set in bold. I don't know what crazy crazyman let that through the gate at Penguin but I just felt I had to point it out right away. It's still worth reading.

    4 essays and 3 pictorial essays. Really interesting stuff cutting away some of the bullshit associated with our appreciation of art. It seems like museums are doing a lot of things wrong as well as right.

    Chapter on oil-painting was particularly interesting but it was the last one about advertising (or "publ

    First of all, this entire book is set in bold. I don't know what crazy crazyman let that through the gate at Penguin but I just felt I had to point it out right away. It's still worth reading.

    4 essays and 3 pictorial essays. Really interesting stuff cutting away some of the bullshit associated with our appreciation of art. It seems like museums are doing a lot of things wrong as well as right.

    Chapter on oil-painting was particularly interesting but it was the last one about advertising (or "publicity" as it's exclusively referred to in this book) that has me thinking. Advertising not only needs you to want this shirt, this car, the entire industry must endeavor to narrow the scope of your desires to make you amenable to the culture. The mindset must always be a future, better you achieved through important purchases. The essay is horrifying enough until you realise that it's thirty years old, and this is now only one facet of a business that's grown much more insidious. The ads shown are almost quaint in their straight sell.

  • Stephen

    2007 wrote: This book, based on a television series, explores how the art world of now has come to be by exploring what art was to humans in the past. The theories presented are very interesting and are posed with pictorial references that do very well to prove points. One interesting chapter deals exclusively with the 'Nude' in art overtime. Overtime it has been reviled, reveared, copied, censored, hidden, hoarded and abstracted. Another great chapter deals in the context in which people see ar

    2007 wrote: This book, based on a television series, explores how the art world of now has come to be by exploring what art was to humans in the past. The theories presented are very interesting and are posed with pictorial references that do very well to prove points. One interesting chapter deals exclusively with the 'Nude' in art overtime. Overtime it has been reviled, reveared, copied, censored, hidden, hoarded and abstracted. Another great chapter deals in the context in which people see art, in contrast to how they might have been meant to see it by the artist. Many pieces are painted as singular wall decorations, but now are hanging in museums next to a hundred other of these decorations. Overtime people now view art online or in sections of video, where a director controls the viewers eyes as what to see through camera tricks and narration. The chapter contemplates and guesses how this might change to experience of art over time. Changing from entertainment, to a more scholarly subject. A very interesting read.

  • Riku Sayuj

    If you are really impatient, you may go and see

    for this book. Otherwise you may wait a few weeks for mine - I don't think it would be fair to review the book without seeing the documentary.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani

    Way of Seeing, John Berger

    Ways of Seeing is a 1972 television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. It was broadcast on BBC Two in January 1972 and adapted into a book of the same name. The book Ways of Seeing was written by Berger and Dibb, along with Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox, and Richard Hollis. The book consists of seven numbered essays: four using words and images; and three essays using only images.

    عنوانها: شیوه های نگریستن؛ شیوه های دیدن؛

    Way of Seeing, John Berger

    Ways of Seeing is a 1972 television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. It was broadcast on BBC Two in January 1972 and adapted into a book of the same name. The book Ways of Seeing was written by Berger and Dibb, along with Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox, and Richard Hollis. The book consists of seven numbered essays: four using words and images; and three essays using only images.

    عنوانها: شیوه های نگریستن؛ شیوه های دیدن؛ شیوه های نگاه؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: از روز ششم ماه فوریه تا روز دوم ماه مارس سال 2013 میلادی

    عنوان: شیوه های نگریستن؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ مترجم: غلامحسین فتح الله نوری؛ تهران، ویژه نگار، 1388؛ در 77 ص، مصور، شابک: 9789649461748؛ موضوع: ادراک بصری، فن، هنر، از نویسندگان سده 20 م

    عنوان: شیوه های نگاه؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ مترجم: محمد هوشمند ویژه؛ تهران، بهجت، 1390؛ در 160 ص، مصور، رنگی؛ شابک: 9789642763528؛

    عنوان: شیوه های دیدن؛ نویسنده: جان برگر (جان برجر)؛ مترجم: زیبا مغربی؛ تهران، شورآفرین، 1393؛ در 122 ص، مصور، رنگی؛ شابک: 9786006955278؛

    جان برگر در «راه‌های دیدن» می‌گوید: «مردان به زنان می‌نگرند و زنان به خود نگاه می‌کنند که مورد تماشا قرار گرفته‌ اند. این روزها، دیگر برای دوربین‌ها آسان نیست که زنان را فقط به صورت ابزاری جنسی به نمایش بگذارند زیرا زنان کارگردان و بازیگر، از نقش‌های خود برای عرضه‌ ی هوش و قدرت آرمانی‌شان بهره می‌گیرند. زنان آمریکایی تلاش فراوانی کرده‌ اند تا دنیایی از آن خود بسازند، دنیایی که در آن اصل نگاه مردانه نمی‌تواند از وجود آنها، هویت جنسی‌شان را به نمایش بگذارد، بلکه مجبور خواهد بود آنها را زنانی با استعداد و باهوش به تصویر بکشد» ا. شربیانی

  • Justin Evans

    I am not the audience for this book, mainly because I've already read and more or less digested the handful of essays and ideas on which it is based. The seven chapters break down fairly simply.

    1: Benjamin's 'Work of Art'--the ability to reproduce images alters the way we encounter works of art. This seems reasonable. Nobody gets to see a Giotto without having seen a reproduction first, except someone who has no interest in the Giotto in the first place. But Berger et al* go a step further: we

    I am not the audience for this book, mainly because I've already read and more or less digested the handful of essays and ideas on which it is based. The seven chapters break down fairly simply.

    1: Benjamin's 'Work of Art'--the ability to reproduce images alters the way we encounter works of art. This seems reasonable. Nobody gets to see a Giotto without having seen a reproduction first, except someone who has no interest in the Giotto in the first place. But Berger et al* go a step further: we need to use the fact that we encounter works of art differently to undermine the ruling class's privilege and the "specialized experts who are the clerks of the nostalgia of a ruling class in decline." That's on page 32. Part of me, a large part, laments the fact that you'd never get that published today, not even on a website. Another part of me laments the stupidity of intellectuals who put their faith in the inherent goodness of The People. The People does not have a good track record when it comes to art appreciation. That's not to say that people can't learn to appreciate art, only that We are no better and no worse than the ruling class was. We need to learn, we need to be taught, you can't do that if you assume that We are inherently able to do the right thing.

    2 & 3: Women are depicted differently from men, and, frankly, not in ways that are healthy for anyone, but particularly not for women. I agree. Which makes it breathtaking to see the authors get so many things wrong, either intentionally (cutting short the bible verse in which God punishes Eve *and Adam*); stupidly (non-Western art forms show women as active participants in sex, so that are isn't morally dubious); or in ways that are, ahem, temporally bound ("Hair is associated with sexual power, with passion." Seventies!).

    5: Oil paintings are bourgeois and generally not morally okay. Holbein's 'Ambassadors' is read as an example of this; the incredible distorted skull in the painting is the exception which proves the rule of oil paintings rather than, you know, showing that oil paintings can be self-critical, as are most good artworks of any kind. In general, the lesson of this book is that all art is bad for you, except the pieces that the authors of this book like. They like pieces by artists who can plausibly be turned into radicals, because only radicals can be interesting (Franz Hals; William Blake). They don't discuss the 20th century at all (I know they know that twentieth century art exists; perhaps, as good Benjaminian Marxists, they don't like abstraction or difficulty). They're also very uncomfortable with religious art, and want to group, e.g., Ambrosius Benson's Mary Magdalene with the absurd and/or pornographic Magdalene of later times, rather than admitting the rather obvious differences (Benson's is rich, but not, how can I put this... naked and disheveled.) Since the authors have a hard time saying what they actually like (vs. what they suspect is oppressive), you get idiocies like this: Rembrandt's famous late portrait shows a man for whom "all has gone except a sense of the question of existence, of existence as a question." A little thought would show that this is the sort of conservative pablum Great Artists have been serving up for generations.

    6 & 7: Advertizing uses art to make you think you want things you don't want and that you can get them, so you don't need to think about what you really want, e.g., more time away from the office. This is true.

    In sum: I was sucked in by the idea that this was a book about understanding art. It is not. It is critical theory for high-school readers. Good for what it is, but extremely narrow in scope, and quite harmful for anyone who swallows it whole rather than taking a few minutes to worry away at its assumptions. Harmful because those who accept it will say silly things, and because those who read it and reject it out of hand (due to the rhetoric, bad arguments, or conceptual confusion) won't be challenged to, you know, care about other people.

    * Humorous aspect of this book: it makes a big deal about how it was written by a group of people, because, you know, individuals are bad, and groups are good. You'll note that the book is sold as a book by John Berger. You can draw the conclusion.

  • Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this,

    "Seeing Comes Before Words: "Ways of Seeing" by John Berger “But because it is nevertheless ‘a work of art”’ – and art is thought to be greater than commerce – its market price is said to be a reflection of its spiritual value of an object, as distinct from a message or an example, can only be explained in terms of magic or religion.”

     

    In “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger

     

    “Original paintings are silent and still in a sense that informatio

    If you're into stuff like this,

    "Seeing Comes Before Words: "Ways of Seeing" by John Berger “But because it is nevertheless ‘a work of art”’ – and art is thought to be greater than commerce – its market price is said to be a reflection of its spiritual value of an object, as distinct from a message or an example, can only be explained in terms of magic or religion.”

     

    In “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger

     

    “Original paintings are silent and still in a sense that information never is. Even a reproduction hung on a wall is not comparable in this respect for in the original the silence and stillness permeate the actual material, the paint, in which one follows the traces of the painter’s immediate gestures. This has the effect of closing the distance in time between the painting of the picture and one’s own act of looking at it. In this special sense all paintings are contemporary.”

     

    In “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger

     

    I find it strange when someone tells me they’re attached to a certain painter and that painter in question is a genius; the definition of 'genius' is fairly broad, so one person's definition might not be another's. I haven't fully formed my argument, haven't pin pointed what it is that niggles at me. I think essentially the problem is that I attach 'genius' in other areas of human endeavour such as science or music or literature, to advancement. To pushing forward into new frontiers; to problem solving, to presenting the world in a different way. I suppose Cubism might meet those criteria, but a lot of Picasso's work seems purely derivative of existing art work and artists (e.g. Duchamp, Cezanne, Matisse, and especially African art and children's art) and he worked backwards into flatness, primitivism and naivety. He was certainly innovative and good at seeing and pulling together different visual stimuli into new combinations.

     

    If you're into Art and Painting in particular, you can the rest of the review elsewhere.

  • Megankellie

    On the top floor in the Strand Bookstore in New York, I saw a self-consciously bored worker show a struggling-to-be-bored kid with his mom to the art table. The worker was like "well, you need this, and this, and this" and I realized the kid must be in art school and the worker must have graduated pretty recently. The worker was like "have you read Ways of Seeing? By John Berger?" and wanted to have geeky enthusiasm, but kept her eyes half closed and only lifted the book two inches. The kid was

    On the top floor in the Strand Bookstore in New York, I saw a self-consciously bored worker show a struggling-to-be-bored kid with his mom to the art table. The worker was like "well, you need this, and this, and this" and I realized the kid must be in art school and the worker must have graduated pretty recently. The worker was like "have you read Ways of Seeing? By John Berger?" and wanted to have geeky enthusiasm, but kept her eyes half closed and only lifted the book two inches. The kid was like "no, what is that?" and trying not to care. The worker was like, totally monotone, "well, it's really amazing. You'll have to read that. Everyone reads it. Anyway, it's awesome." Then they went away and I picked it up, because I would like to go to art school, learn 1,000 techniques and become spiritually fulfilled, kind, married, a terrific cook, and understand flowers etc. and make informative life-affirming web shorts that are not irrelevant. In the bookstore, Ways of Seeing was boring but I decided it was my fault. Months later, I found it in a library in Santa Cruz, California. It is printed in bold type for no reason. I guess it is interesting. Oil paintings were about conspicuous consumption back in the day. Only women are conscious about what they present to the world looks-wise. Fetishizing the past helps aristocrats stay aristocrats. Capitalists turned art into a commodity. This is apparently all pulled from a BBC special which I bet is more interesting. At a certain point in your life this will BLOW YOUR MIND, but if you know in your heart that one day we will all hate stainless steel kitchens and be like "ugh, so old fashioned, barf" you will probably be like "yeah, this was okay."

  • Jeremy

    Almost laughably disappointing. Berger obviously has the best of intentions, but his analysis is amateurish at best, pathetically reactionary (almost to the point of seeming to whine) at worst, and largely cribbed from thinkers of far greater intellectual originality and power than himself.

    For starters, he seems either ignorant of or unwilling to admit that what we broadly call 'mainstream visual art' is, was, and quite likely almost always has been directly tied up with wealth; with commissions

    Almost laughably disappointing. Berger obviously has the best of intentions, but his analysis is amateurish at best, pathetically reactionary (almost to the point of seeming to whine) at worst, and largely cribbed from thinkers of far greater intellectual originality and power than himself.

    For starters, he seems either ignorant of or unwilling to admit that what we broadly call 'mainstream visual art' is, was, and quite likely almost always has been directly tied up with wealth; with commissions, patronage, really with human commerce itself. Visual art isn't some pure, 'virginal' endeavor sullied by capitalism. Visual art is a creative activity which is intimately tied into and dependent on capitalism (really, on wealth) in the first place... and with displaying and re-affirming that wealth.

    His naive disgust with modern capitalism's collusion with art assumes that there was some magical time when art existed in a vacuum of economic/ideological purity, unsullied by the lucre of having to actually pay someone to produce a canvas or carve a church door or gild something. If such 'pure' art even exists in the first place, Berger provides literally no evidence for it: no examples from non-western European, 'traditional' cultures or even folk arts which might conceivably hint that some people make art for nothing more than their own personal pleasure.

    As if his shallow reading of these issues wasn't bad enough, he then goes on to make the utterly ludicrous claim that portraits of women, nudes, etc, show us that all women everywhere (and only ever women) are essentially shaped (really, he means warped) by the erotic gaze of male longing and domination. That's a powerful idea. It's also utterly indemonstrable and reeks of cheap psycho-analysis. Worse than that...it's a theory concocted to explain and reduce the female experience, which to be sure, has been cruelly unfair for the vast majority of human history, down into a narrow category of sexual expectation.

    Has John Berger ever MET an actual woman? What could be more bigoted, what could be more misogynistic, than dismissively generalizing all members of the female sex as simply 'damaged' by the male gaze, as if a single tiny statement was enough to claim to understand the full totality of the female experience and female suffering through out history? And of course, his visual examples of this are, again, cheaply cherry picked...just a few nudes (which to be sure, are pathetically offensive). Berger manages the odd feat of trying to empathize with the female subject in art and somehow making himself come across as an arrogant misogynist in the process.

    The problem with this book is that underneath it's crummy pseudo-analysis is a person who already knows how the world is to such a level of satisfaction that he has nothing left to discover or even really demonstrate about it. Capitalism? Oh it's ruined art. (Never mind telling us about what art from a non-capitalist culture is like) Women? Oh the poor things, they're so warped by male expectations its a miracle they can even stand up (Never mind that you don't relate any actual woman's experience at any point). Photography? Oh that's ruined art too by making images ubiquitous (never mind really examining photography fairly to see the myriad ways it has changed modern culture and modern art) This book proves one thing above all: the complacent intellectual smugness of the person who wrote it.

    Look, the relationship between the commercial world and the ever-changing world of visual artistic endeavor is a hugely diverse and complicated subject, as is the relationship between art and advertising. As is, especially, the relationship between gender roles and visual art through out history. Thinkers as diverse as Susan Sontag, Walter Benjamin, Virginia Woolf, Naomi Klein, etc. have all written elegantly and movingly about these topics. John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" tries to stand on the shoulders of such thinkers and falls off on nearly every page. Largely because the only thing Berger seems to 'see' is his own self-satisfaction.

Best Books Online is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2019 Best Books Online - All rights reserved.