Ways of Seeing: A Book

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Penguin Books, 1972 - Art - 166 pages
733 Reviews
"Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.

"But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but word can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled."

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

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - the.ken.petersen - LibraryThing

I imagine, that when this book was originally published, and even more so when the BBC showed the television series, that this was pretty controversial. Berger does not fawn over the merits of the ... Read full review

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User Review  - P_S_Patrick - LibraryThing

A set of seven essays on "ways of seeing", or viewing and interpreting art. Four of these are written essays, and between each of these is a "pictorial essay" based soley on pictures. The four essays ... Read full review

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About the author (1972)

John Berger was born in London in 1926. Berger was educated at St Edward's School, an independent school for boys in Oxford. Berger served in the British Army from 1944 to 1946; he then enrolled in the Chelsea School of Art and the Central School of Art in London. Berger began his career as a painter and exhibited work at a number of London galleries in the late 1940s. Berger became an art critic, publishing many essays and reviews in the New Statesman from 1948 - 1955. He titled an early collection of essays Permanent Red, in part as a statement of political commitment. In 1958 Berger published his first novel, A Painter of Our Time, which tells the story of the disappearance of Janos Lavin, a fictional exiled Hungarian painter, and his diary's discovery by an art critic friend called John. His novel G. won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Booker Prize in 1972. In the 1970s Berger collaborated with the Swiss director Alain Tanner on several films; he wrote or co-wrote La Salamandre (1971), The Middle of the World (1974) and Jonah who will be 25 in the year 2000 (1976). He is well known for his novels & stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His works include Hold Everything Dear, From A to X, Why Look at Animals?, Cataract (with Selšuk Demirel) and Bento's Sketchbook.