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Ways of Seeing (A pelican original) Paperback – October 26, 1972


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Paperback, October 26, 1972
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: A pelican original
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: British Broadcasting Corp (October 26, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563122447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563122449
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,947,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels & stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, "A Painter of Our Time", was published in 1958, & since then his books have included the novel "G.", which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he lives in a small village in the French Alps. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels and stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, A Painter of Our Time, was published in 1958, and since then his books have included the novel G., which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he lives in a small village in the French Alps.

Customer Reviews

The quality of the picture inside this book are of horrible quality.
jdlindamood
These are questions that should be asked of any work of art, and Berger aims to ask these questions.
Pumpkin King
Even now, this book is a great way to demystify the art market for the art student.
CADJewellerySkills

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 116 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on October 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
thirty years on, 'Ways of Seeing' continues to be a major primary textbook, not just for those studying or interested in fine art, but in any of the humanities from literature to cinema. You can see the appeal for lecturers - difficult but essential theorists such as Benjamin and Barthes are explained with bite-size lucidity, even if this sometimes has the effect of caricaturing their work. As Geoff Dyer has noted, much of the impetus given to Cultural Studies, the critical/academic form of post-modernism, can be traced to Berger's TV series and this book: many of the questions raised and areas for study pinponted have generated a whole academic industry.
In seven chapters, Berger assaults the traditional bastions of art 'appreciation', with its obfuscating jargon, elitist interests and, most damagingly, its insistence on timeless, non-'historical' values. three of these essays are text-free, image-based, and Berger claims all the essays can be read independently and in any order, as part of the process of 'deconstructing' the apparatus of art criticism that includes laying bare the mechanics, manipulations and limitations of his arguments, and undermining the very idea of coherent authorship by suggesting the name 'John Berger' signifies a five-piece collective.
contrary to Berger's claim, the image-essays can only be properly understood in connection with the textual ones. these are four now-classic pieces of critical iconoclasm. the first synopsises Benjamin's famous essay 'the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', and discusses how art, and the culture it embodies, has lost its old rarefied authority in a demystifying age of image overload. chapter three analyses the classic tradition of nude paintings, and the misogynistic/patriarchal worldview it upheld.
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Pumpkin King on December 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
WAYS OF SEEING is a collection of seven essays. Three are pictorial; four are textual. All are about art, how art is seen, how it is valued, how it is used, and what we can learn from looking at art.
Of the textual essays, the first is about the mystification of art and history by its associations with assumptions and values that are not necessarily inherent in the work itself, but in its rarity, uniqueness, and commercial demand. He discusses art as being seen as an almost religious icon, and how the reproduction of images has contributed to the mystification of the original image.
The second textual essay is a study of women and how they are seen, who sees them, and how they see themselves being seen by others. It is Berger's critique of the Nude as an art form, and he argues that they place women as objects to be seen and desired and overpowered by men, the subject.
The third essay is about the tradition of oil paintings in Europe between 1500 and 1900. Berger explains the connections between the content of these paintings and the ownership of them as a symbol of affluence, as products of capitalism and the maintenance of the status quo.
The fourth essay has to do with publicity, or advertisement, and the reference that such images make to oil paintings, sexual attractiveness, and dissatisfaction with the current state of life (the promise of a better future, given that you buy something).
I'm not an art historian, and I don't know much about theories of art. But WAYS OF SEEING is a book that pierces into the comfortable notions of art as belonging to the elite and cultured, and reveals its role as used to maintain power structures. Who commissioned the work, who is meant to look at it, what is it putting on display, what are its political motives? These are questions that should be asked of any work of art, and Berger aims to ask these questions. By doing so, he also enlightens the reader.
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182 of 202 people found the following review helpful By "lexo-2" on November 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ways of Seeing is the book of a groundbreaking and brilliant TV series that Berger created with Mike Dibb in the 1970s. The book isn't quite as amazing as the series, but it's acquired canonical status anyway as Berger's most frequently set text on art and art criticism. Which is a pity, because while the impressive confidence of Berger's judgments was inspiring back then (Marina Warner and Michael Ondaatje have each paid tribute to it), time has passed over the last quarter of a century and the book is in danger of looking old-fashioned. The theory of desire, which Berger manages to popularise in a single succinct chapter, has been challenged, confirmed, turned upside-down and generally elaborated upon so much since the book was written that his version of it is now inadequate. Advertising is vastly more sophisticated now than it was in 1972 - the ads reproduced in the book, while perfectly representative of their time, are almost laughable in their blatant sexism and classism. (You wouldn't get away with them now, that's for sure.) But the account of the rise of oil painting is still persuasive, even if it lacks the cheek and mischievousness of the TV version. Readers expecting to find Berger's most incisive and complex criticism should look elsewhere, though, to The Sense of Sight or About Looking, because Ways of Seeing is essentially a popularisation of theories that have since become much more complex, and Berger's lapidary, no-argument tone is hardly applicable anymore. Somebody should release the series on video, then we'd get the same ideas in a more engaging and fascinating manner.
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