WAYS OF SEEING. A book made by. John Berger, Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox,. Michael Dibb, Richard Hollis based on the BBC television series with. JOHN. Ways of Seeing - JOHN BERGER - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File . txt) or read online for free. 1 John Berger, Ways of Seeing INTRODUCTION Published in and based on a BBC television programme of the same name, this is a very influential text.
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'But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which John Berger's Ways of Seeing is one of the most stimulating and the. WAYS OF SEEING based on the BBC television series with. JOHN BERGER. British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books. WAYS OF SEEING sased on the BBC televisión series with. JOHN BERGER ait>. British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books.
To have a thing painted and put on a canvas is not unlike buying it and putting it in your house. It is discussing each of these points for pages. The Nude The social presence of men and women 1. For publicity, the present has to be insufficient. Collect copies of a range of images and make a pictorial essay of your own either to endorse or refute this point.
In this chapter, Berger points out what is involved in seeing, and how the way we see things is determined by what we know. He goes on to argue that the real meaning of many images has been obscured by academics, changed by photographic reproduction and distorted by monetary value. Chapter 3. In this chapter, Berger shows how the nude in western art systematically objectified women, and how this tradition has been continued by photography.
Chapter 5. Here, Berger argues that oil painting has, because of its realism, a powerful link to ownership and the buying power of money, and so often celebrates the power of money. This chapter is not summarised.
Chapter 7. He points out that seeing and recognition come before words. It is seeing that establishes our place in the world, but we use words to explain this world.
Despite this he argues there is always a distinction between what we see and what we know. The example he gives is that of us seeing the sun revolving around the earth but knowing the opposite. Having established that we see first and then use words to explain the world, i.
This makes it a dynamic relationship; it may start with seeing and recognition, but develops into a system in which our past experience or knowledge changes the way we see things. For example, today we would see fire differently from people in the Middle Ages who believed in the physical reality of hell. The act of seeing is active; it is an act of choice. We see what we look at and so relate to it.
We also become aware that we can be seen, and so are aware we are part of the visible world. This results in the understanding that others may see things differently. This two-way reciprocal nature of vision comes before dialogue.
This detachment can be great or small, but all images, including photographs, involve a way of seeing by the person who has created the image. Berger argues that images were first made to represent something that was not there, and later acquired an extra level of meaning by lasting longer than the original subject.
The image now showed how the subject had once looked to other people. Later still, with the increasing consciousness of the individual, the image was recognised as the particular vision of a particular artist. Unfortunately, when images from the past are presented as works of art, their meanings are obscured mystified by learnt assumptions such as beauty, truth, form etc. However, this cultural mystification results both in making the images seem more remote, and allows us to draw fewer conclusions from history.
When we see art from the past, we have the opportunity to place ourselves in history. The mystification is an attempt to prevent us from really seeing the image and so deprives us of our history. At the time of painting, Hals was a destitute old man dependent on the charity of people whose portraits he now painted.
The history goes further and argues against the viewer thinking they can understand the personalities of the people portrayed. For Berger, the relationship of the personalities, the destitute old painter and the people on whose charity he depends on is the essence of the painting.
The impact of photography From the Renaissance onwards, perspective in art converged on the single spectator, who could only be in one place at a time. The implication was that images were timeless. Photography, in particular the movie camera, changed this. What you saw depended on your place in time and space. The camera changed the way artists saw. Impressionists saw the visible in continuous change [as the light changed so did the appearance of the object] and Cubists no longer recognised a single vantage point [so, for example, they would paint a face with an eye seen from one vantage point and the nose from another].
A second major impact was to destroy the uniqueness of images. Even if the image could be moved, there was always only one image. By reproducing the image, the camera multiplies and breaks up its meaning. It can be shown on your own lounge wall, on the television, or on a T-shirt.
Its value lies now not so much in what it says but in its rarity and the price it would fetch. There is a conflict here because art is thought to be above commerce. Those who mystify art respond by claiming that the commercial value reflects the spiritual value; yet in modern society, religion is not the living force it once was.
One is at the National Gallery and other at the Louvre. Likewise, certain images take on new importance when their value increases. To hide this link between artistic value and market value, a false sense of religiosity is given to these works, so alienating most people from art. Reproduction detaches the meaning from a painting, and its meaning is to a greater or lesser degree changed. By selecting a part of an allegorical painting for example, it can be transformed into a portrait.
A filmmaker can construct an argument by selecting parts of a painting and presenting them in a particular order. Presented with the painting itself, the viewer takes in the whole image in an instant, and, even when looking at a specific area, can always refer to the whole.
The juxtaposition of words and images also changes the meaning. The meaning of an image will change depending on its context. The image could be used in advertising, often reconfirming the mystification of art, or someone could pin a reproduction on his or her pin-board, seeing something very personal in the image. Berger still sees a value in the original image. Art no longer exists as it did. It was once isolated, part of a hierarchy, but now images of art are available and insubstantial.
Yet it is still presented to people in a mystified way and so alienates them, cutting them off from their history and making art a political issue. Men are measured by the degree of power they offer. The power may be in any number of forms, for example moral, physical, economic etc.
Every thing she does contributes to her presence. She is born into the keeping of men, and from childhood is taught to survey herself, with the result that her being is split into two, the surveyed and the surveyor. Her own sense of being is replaced by a sense of being appreciated by others — ultimately men. He acts, she appears, and she watches herself being looked at. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: The nude in oil painting Berger points out that women are the main subject in one category of European oil painting — the nude.
The nude reveals how women have been seen and judged as sights. The first nudes in this tradition illustrate the story of Adam and Eve, usually as a series of images similar to a cartoon. For Berger, there are two important elements to this story. Firstly, having eaten the apple they see each other in a different way, so nakedness was in the eye of the beholder. Secondly, the woman is blamed and made subservient to the man by way of punishment. During the Renaissance the story disappeared, and instead a single moment was shown, usually the moment of shame.
However, the shame is directed more at the viewer than towards each other.
Gradually, the shame became a kind of display. Even when secular subjects began to be used, the implication that the woman was aware of being seen by the spectator remained. As a result she was not naked in her own right but naked as the male viewer saw her. Berger gives a range of examples. Common to all of these images is the sense of the woman being watched; by men in the painting; by herself; by the spectator towards whom her body is often turned.
Her nakedness is not an expression of her own feelings but that of the male viewer. This is in marked contrast to the art of other cultures where nakedness is not so passive and has a degree of sexual equality. Clark distinguishes between nakedness and nudity. For him, to be naked is simply to be without clothes. It has nothing to do with art. The nude, on the other hand, is an art form. The subject may be naked people, but the way they are painted makes them nudes, i.
To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude. Berger illustrates this point with the Allegory of Time and Love by Bronzino. In the painting, Cupid is kissing Venus, yet the way their bodies are arranged have nothing to do with them kissing. Her body has been contorted to present itself to the male viewer of the painting.
The picture appeals to his sexuality, it has nothing to do with hers. The image conforms to another European convention, that of not painting body hair on women. This is because hair suggests power and passion, and the male spectator must feel these are his characteristics. They need to transcend the moment, because for Berger, in a lived sexual experience, nakedness is a process rather than a state, so an image of any instant runs the risk of distortion.
The images must be subjective, and finally they must have an element of banality ordinariness. European humanism, which entails a strong sense of the individual, was a strong influence on European thinking during this time, yet the nude denied the indivi- dualism of the women portrayed.
The reason for this was the contradictory interests of those involved in a painting: The spirit of individualism allowed some artists to resolve this contradiction, but the tradition as a whole did not. The ideal spectator is still male and the image is designed to flatter him. He points out that they surround us, and that this is unique to modern society. These visual messages last only for a moment, both in terms of how long we look at them and in terms of how frequently they need to be updated.
Despite this, they do not refer to the present but to the future. We see these images so frequently we now take them for granted. Although we usually pass these images, we have the sense of them continually passing us, so they are seen as dynamic and we seem static.
These images are justified in terms of an economic system that, in theory, benefits the public the consumer , by stimulating consumption and as a result, the economy. Although tied to the concept of free choice, the freedom to buy this brand or another, the whole system of publicity is based on one proposal: Despite having spent our money, our lives will be richer by possessing more. Envy, glamour and publicity Berger sees a relationship between envy, glamour and publicity.
Publicity shows us people whose lives have been transformed by consumption and so have become enviable. Being enviable makes the person glamorous, and publicity manufactures glamour. Publicity starts by working on the natural appetite for pleasure, something that is real.
It does not, however, offer the pleasure as it is. Rather it promises happiness, happiness gained by being envied by others, and this is glamour. It is not therefore offering the pleasure in itself.
History always constitutes the relation between a present and its past. Consequently fear of the present leads to mystification of the Images were first made to conjure up the past. The past is not for living i n ; it is a well of conclusions appearances of something that was absent. Gradually it from which w e draw in order to act. Cultural mystification of became evident that an image could outlast what it the past entails a double loss.
Works of art are made represented; it then showed how something or somebody had unnecessarily remote. And the past offers us fewer once looked — and thus by implication how the subject had conclusions to complete in action. This was the ourselves in history. When we are prevented from seeing it, result of an increasing consciousness of individuality, we are being deprived of the history which belongs to us.
It would be Who benefits from this deprivation? In the end, the art of the rash to try to date this last development precisely. But past is being mystified because a privileged minority is certainly in Europe such consciousness has existed since the striving to invent a history which can retrospectively justify beginning of the Renaissance. And so, inevitably, it offer such a direct testimony about the world which mystifies.
In this respect images are more precise and richer than literature. To say this Let us consider a typical example of such is not to deny the expressive or imaginative quality of art, mystification. A two-volume study was recently published on treating it as mere documentary evidence; the more imaginative Frans Hals. It is the authoritative work to date on this painter.
Most of his life he had been in debt. During the winter of , the year he began painting these pictures, he obtained three loads of peat on public charity, otherwise he would have f rozen to death. Those who now sat for him were administrators of such public charity. The author records these facts and then explicitly says that it would be incorrect to read into the paintings any criticism of the sitters. There is no evidence, he says, that Hals painted them in a spirit of bitterness.
The author considers them, however, remarkable works of art and explains why. Here he writes of the Regentesses:. Each woman stands out with equal clarity against the enormous dark surface, yet they are linked by a firm rhythmical arrangement and the subdued diagonal pattern formed by their heads and hands.
The compositional unity of a painting contributes fundamentally to the power of its image. It is reasonable to consider a painting's composition. But here the composition is written about as though it were in itself the emotional charge of the painting. All conflict disappears. One is left with the unchanging 'human condition', and the painting considered as a marvellously made object.
Very little is known about Hals or the Regents who commissioned him. I t is not possible to produce circumstantial evidence to establish what their relations were. The last t w o great paintings by Frans Hals portray But there is the evidence of the paintings themselves: Study this evidence and judge for They were officially commissioned portraits. This, he suggests, is a libel. He insists that the men and women portrayed.
One might go on What is this 'seduction' he writes of? It is discussing each of these points for pages. Men in nothing less than the paintings working upon'us. They work seventeenth-century Holland wore their hats on the side of upon us because w e accept the way Hals saw his sitters. We their heads in order to be thought of as adventurous and do not accept this innocently. We accept it in so far as it pleasure loving. Heavy drinking was an approved practice. But such a discussion would take us even farther institutions.
And it is author is determined to evade. It has, for example, been asserted that pauper. This is the drama of these paintings. A drama of an the Regent in the tipped slouch hat, which hardly covers ' unforgettable contrast'. Mystification is the process of explaining. Hals was the first portraitist to paint the new characters and expressions created by capitalism. He did in pictorial terms what Balzac did t w o centuries later in literature.
Yet the author of the authoritative work on these paintings sums up the artist's achievement by referring to. After the invention of the camera this contradiction gradually became apparent.
That is mystification. In order to avoid mystifying the past which can equally well suffer pseudo-Marxist mystification let us now examine the particular relation which now exists, so far as pictorial images are concerned, between the present and the past. If w e can see the present clearly enough, we shall ask the right questions of the past. Today we see the art of the past as nobody saw it before. We actually perceive it in a different way. This difference can be illustrated in terms of what was thought of as perspective.
The convention of perspective, which is unique to European art and which was first established in the early Renaissance, centres everything on the eye of the beholder. It is like a beam f rom a l'm an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you lighthouse - only instead of light travelling outwards, a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for appearances travel in. The conventions called those today and forever from human immobility.
Perspective makes the single eye the i o constant movement. Everything converges on to the objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running eye as to the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is horse's mouth.
I fall and rise with the falling and rising arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic to be arranged for God. So co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever The inherent contradiction in perspective was that it I want them to be.
My way leads towards the creation structured all images of reality to address a single spectator of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a - E who, unlike God, could only be in one place at a time. Or, to put it another way, the was invented. Originally paintings were an integral part of the camera showed that the notion of time passing was building for which they were designed. Sometimes in an early inseparable from the experience of the visual except in Renaissance church or chapel one has the feeling that the paintings.
What you saw depended upon where you were images on the wall are records of the building's interior life, when. What you saw was relative to your position in time and that together they make up the building's memory — so much space. It was no longer possible to imagine everything are they part of the particularity of the building.
This is not to say that before the invention of the camera men believed that everyone could see everything.
But perspective organized the visual f ield as though that were indeed the ideal. Every drawing or painting that used perspective proposed to the spectator that he was the unique centre of the world. The camera - and more particularly the movie camera - demonstrated that there was no centre.
The invention of the camera changed the way men saw.
The visible carne to mean something different to them. This was immediately reflectad in painting. For the Impressionists 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. The uniqueness of every painting was once part of the uniqueness of the place where it resided. Sometimes the painting was transportable.
But it could never be seen in t w o places at the same time. When the camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness of its image. As a result its meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its meaning muitiplies and fragments into many meanings.
The painting enters each viewer's house. There it is surrounded by his wallpaper, his furniture, his mementoes. It becomes their talking point. It lends its meaning to Having seen this reproduction, one can go to the their meaning. At the same time it enters a million other National Gallery to look at the original and there discover what houses and, in each of them, is seen in a different context.
Alternatively one can forget about the Because of the camera, the painting now travels to the quality of the reproduction and simply be reminded, when one spectator rather than the spectator to the painting.
In its sees the original, that it is a famous painting of which travels, its meaning is diversified. But in either case the uniqueness of the original now lies in it being the original of a reproduction. It is no longer what its image shows that strikes one as unique; its first meaning is no longer to be found in what it says, but in what it is. This new status of the original work is the perfectly rational consequence of the new means of reproduction.
But it is at this point that a process of mystification again enters. The meaning of the original work no longer lies in what it uniquely says but in what it uniquely is. Here is a reproduction of the Virgin of the Rocks the price it fetches on the market. But because it is by Leonardo da Vinci. Works of art are discussed and presented as though they were holy relies: The past in which they originated is studied in order to prove their survival genuine.
They are declared art when their line of descent can be certified. Before the Virgin of the Rocks the visitor to the National Gallery would be encouraged by nearly everything he might have heard and read about the painting to feel something like this: I can see it.
This painting by Leonardo is unlike any other in the world. The National Gallery has the real one. If I look at this painting hard enough, I should somehow be able to feel its authenticity. The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci: They accord perfectly with the sophisticated culture of art experts for whom the National Gallery catalogue is written. The entry on the Virgin of the Rocks is one of the longest enfries. It consists of fourteen closely printed pages.
They do not deal with the meaning of the image. They deal with who commissioned the painting, legal squabbles, who owned it, its likely date, the families of its owners. Behind this information lie years of research. The aim of the research is to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that the painting is a genuine Leonardo. A few years ago it was known only to scholars. It became famous because an American wanted to buy it for t w o 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.
Its function is nostalgic. If the image is no longer unique and exclusive, the art object, the French art historians try to prove the opposite. The following table shows how closely an question of reproduction making it possible, even inevitable, interest in art is related to privileged education. With no Only educational secondary qualification 0. Only Further and primary higher education 0. Or, to put this another way, they believe that original masterpieces belong to the preserve both materially and spiritually of the rich.
Another table indicates what the idea Reproduction isolates a detail of a painting from of an art gallery suggests to each social class. The detail is transformed. An allegorical figure Of the places Usted below which does a museum remind you becomes a portrait of a girl. Skilled and Professional Manual white collar and upper workers workers managerial.
Church 66 45 In the age of pictorial reproduction the meaning of paintings is no longer attached to them; their meaning becomes transmittable: When a painting is put to use, its meaning is either modified or totally changed.
One should be quite clear about what this involves. It is not a question of reproduction failing to. A film which reproduces images of a painting leads M the spectator, through the painting, to the film-maker's own conclusions.
The painting lends authority to the film-maker. This is because a film unfolds in time and a painting does not. In a film the way one image follows another, their succession, This is a landscape of a cornfield with birds flying constructs an argument which becomes irreversible.
Look at it for a moment. Then turn the page. The painting maintains its own authority. Consequently a reproduction, as well as making its own references to the image of its original, becomes O m itself the reference point for other images. It is hard to define exactly how the words have changed the image but undoubtedly they have.
The image now illustrates the sentence. In this essay each image reproduced has become part of an argument which has little or nothing to do with the painting's original independent meaning.
The words have quoted the paintings to confirm their own verbal authority. The essays without words in this book may make that distinction clearer. Hwomen knew then For example, the whole concept of the National Cultural Heritage exploits the authority of art to glorify the present social system and its priorities.
Adults and children sometimes have boards in their bedrooms or living-rooms on which they pin pieces of paper: On each that information never is. Even a reproduction hung on a wall board all the images belong to the same language and all are is not comparable in this respect for in the original the silence more or less equal within it, because they have been chosen in and stillness permeate the actual material, the paint, in which a highly personal way to match and express the experience of one follows the traces of the painter's immediate gestures.
Logically, these boards should replace This has the effect of closing the distance in time between the museums. In What are we saying by that? Let us first be sure this special sense all paintings are contemporary.
Henee the about what we are not saying. Their historical moment is We are not saying that there is nothing left to literally there before our eyes. The way original works of art are world's life passes! To paint it in its reality, and forget usually approached - through museum catalogues, guides, everything for t h a t! To become that minute, to be the hired cassettes, etc. When the art of the past ceases to be viewed everything that has appeared before our time.
We are not saying original works of art are now today upon how w e have already experienced the meaning of useless. We are not claiming that to cut out a magazine except that the masses, thanks to reproductions, can now reproduction of an archaic Greek head, because it is reminiscent begin to appreciate art as the cultured minority once did. Within it w e could begin to define our experiences more The idea of innocence faces t w o ways.
Seeing comes to enter a conspiracy, one remains innocent of that conspiracy. Not only personal experience, but also the But to remain innocent may also be to remain ignorant. The essential historical experience of our relation to the past: In decline, Its authority is lost.
In its place there is a language of images. The real question is: This touches upon questions of copyright for the meaning of the art of the past properly belong? To those reproduction, the ownership of art presses and publishers, the who can apply it to their own lives, or to a cultural hierarchy total policy of publie art galleries and museums.
As usually of relie specialists? One of the The visual arts have always existed within a aims of this essay has been to show that what is really at certain preserve; originally this preserve was magical or stake is much larger. A people or a class which is cut off from sacred. But it was also physical: Later the preserve of art became a social one.
It entered the culture of the ruling class, whilst physically it was set apart and isolated in their palaces and houses. During all this history the authority of art was inseparable from the particular authority of the preserve. What the modern means of reproduction have done is to destroy the authority of art and to remove it - or, rather, to remove its images which they reproduce - from any preserve. For the f irst time ever, images of art have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, f ree.
They surround us in the same way as a language surrounds us. They have entered the mainstream of life over which they no longer, in themselves, have power. This essay is available in English in a collection called llluminations Cape, London A man's presence is dependent upon the promise of power which he embodies.
If the promise is large and credible his presence is striking. If it is small or incredible, he is found to have little presence. The promised power may be moral, physical, temperamental, economic, social, sexual - but its object is always exterior to the man. A man's presence. His presence regulates what is and is not 'permissible' within her presence may be fabricated, in the sense that he pretends to be presence.
Every one of her actions — whatever its direct capable of what he is not. But the pretence is always towards purpose or motivation — is also read as an indication of how a power which he exercises on others. If a woman throws a glass on the By contrast, a woman's presence expresses her floor, this is an example of how she treats her own emotion of own attitude to herself, and defines what can and cannot be anger and so of how she would wish it to be treated by others.
Her presence is manifest in her gestures, voice, If a man does the same, his action is only read as an opinions, expressions, clothes, chosen surroundings, taste - expression of his anger. If a woman makes a good joke this is indeed there is nothing she can do which does not contribute an example of how she treats the joker in herself and to her presence.
Presence for a woman is so intrinsic to her accordingly of how she as a joker-woman would like to be person that men tend to think of it as an almost physical treated by others. Only a man can make a good joke for its own emanation, a kind of heat or smell or aura. To be born a woman has been to be born, within One might simplify this by saying: The women appear.
Men look at women. Women watch themselves social presence of women has developed as a result of their being looked at. This determines not only most relations ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited between men and women but also the relation of women to space.
But this has been at the cost of a woman's self being themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: A woman must continually watch herself. She surveyed female. Whilst she is waiking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself waiking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually.
In one category of European oil painting women And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the were the principal, ever-recurring subject.
That category is the surveyed within her as the t w o constituent yet always distinct nude. In the nudes of European painting we can discover some elements of her identity as a woman.
Her own sense and Eve. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for Men survey women before treating them. To acquire some control over this fruit thereof and did eat; and she gave also unto her process, women must contain it and interiorize it.
That part of husband with her, and he did eat. And this exemplary treatment of that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves herself by herself constitutes her presence.
Every woman's together and made themselves aprons. And the. The couple wear f ig-leaves or make a garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid modest gesture with their hands. But now their shame is not myself. They became aware of being naked because, as a result of eating the apple, each saw the other differentiy.
Nakedness was created in the mind of the beholder. The second striking fact is that the woman is blamed and is punished by being made subservient to the man.
In relation to the woman, the man becomes the agent of God. In the medieval tradition the story was often Later the shame becomes a kind of display. 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 being seen by a spectator. The mirror was often used as a symbol of the She is naked as the spectator sees her.
The moralizing, however, was mostly hypocritical. Often — as with the favourite subject of Susannah and the EIders - this is the actual theme of the picture. We join the EIders to spy on Susannah taking her bath. She looks back at us looking at her. You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.
The real function of the mirror was otherwise. Susannah is looking at herself in a mirror. Thus she joins the The Judgement of Paris was another theme with spectators of herself. The It is worth noticing that in other non-European element of judgement. Paris awards the apple to the woman traditions — in Indian art, Persian art, African art, Pre- he finds most beautiful. Thus Beauty becomes competitive. Columbian art - nakedness is never supine in this way.
And if, Today The Judgement of Paris has become the Beauty in these traditions, the theme of a work is sexual Contest. Those who are not judged beautiful are not beautiful.
The prize is to be owned by a judge — that is to say We can now begin to see the difference between to be available for him. Charles the Second commissioned a nakedness and nudity in the European tradition. In his book on secret painting from Lely. It is a highly typical image of the The Nude Kenneth Clark maintains that to be naked is simply to tradition. Nominally it might be a Venus and Cupid.
In fact it is be without clothes, whereas the nude is a form of art. According to him, a nude is not the starting point of a It shows her passively looking at the spectator staring at painting, but a way of seeing which the painting achieves.
To her naked. What is true is that the nude is always conventionalized — and the authority for its conventions derives from a certain tradition of art. This nakedness is not, however, an expression of her own feelings; it is a sign of her submission to the owner's What do these conventions mean?
What does a feelings or demands. The owner of both woman and painting. It is not sufficient to answer these questions The painting, when the King showed it to others, demonstrated merely in terms of the art-form, for it is quite slear that the this submission and his guests envied him. The painting was sent as a present from the Grand To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet Duke of Florence to the King of France.
The boy kneeling on not recognized for oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an the cushion and kissing the woman is Cupid. She is Venus. The sight of it as an object But the way her body is arranged has nothing to do with their stimulates the use of it as an object. Her body is arranged in the way it is, to display it to itself. Nudity is placed on display. This picture is made to appeal To be naked is to be without disguise. It has nothing to do with her sexuality. Here To be on display is to have the surface of one's and in the European tradition generally, the convention of not own skin, the hairs of one's own body, turned into a disguise painting the hair on a woman's body helps towards the same which, in that situation, can never be discarded.
The nude is end. Hair is associated with sexual power, with passion. The condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress.
He is the spectator Women are there to feed an appetite, not to have any of their in f ront of the picture and he is presumed to be a man. Everything is addressed to him. Everything must appear to be Compare the expressions of these t w o women: It is for him that the figures have assumed their nudity.
But he, by definition, is a stranger - with his clothes still on. Consider the Allegory of Time and Love by Bronzino. Is not the expression remarkably similar in each case? It is the expression of a woman responding with calculated charm to the man whom she imagines looking at her - although she doesn't know him.
She is offering up her femininity as the surveyed. The complicated symbolism which lies behind this painting need not concern us now because it does not affect its sexual appeal - at the first degree. Before it is anything else, this is a painting of sexual provocation. Men of state, of business, discussed under paintings like this.
But the woman's attention is very rarely directed When one of them felt he had been outwitted, he looked up for towards him. Often she looks away from him or she looks out consolation. What he saw reminded him that he was a man. There was a special category of private pornographic paintings especially in the eighteenth century There are a few exceptional nudes in the in which coupies making love make an appearance.
But even in European tradition of oil painting to which very little of what f ront of these it is clear that the spectator-owner will in has been said above applies. Indeed they are no longer nudes — fantasy oust the other man, or else identify with him. By they break the norms of the art-form; they are paintings of contrast the image of the couple in non-European traditions loved women, more or less naked.
Among the hundreds of provokes the notion of many coupies making love. The spectator. He cannot provokes a very strong sense of relief. She is a woman like any deceive himself into believing that she is naked for him. He other: The way the painter has painted the marvellous simplicity of the familiar sexual mechanism.
But the ' r e l i e f can be explained without recourse to the unconscious. We did not expect them to be otherwise, but the urgency and complexity of our feelings bred a sense of uniqueness which the sight of the other, as she is or as he is, now dispels. They are more like the rest of their sex than they are different. In this revelation lies the warm and friendly - as opposed to cold and impersonal - anonymity of nakedness. One could express this differently: Up to that instant the other was more or less mysterious.
Etiquettes of modesty are not merely puritan or sentimental: And the explanation of this loss of mystery may be largely visual.
The focus of perception shifts from eyes, mouth, shoulders, hands - all of which are capable of such subtleties of expression that the personality expressed by them is manifold — it shifts from these to the sexual parts, whose formation suggests an utterly compelling but single process.
Our relief is the problem of painting nakedness is not as simple as it might relief of finding an unquestionable reality to whose direct at first appear.
We need the banality which w e find in the first What is the sexual function of nakedness in instant of disclosure because it grounds us in reality. But it reality? Clothes encumber contact and movement. But it would does more than that. The hundredth. What does this sight of the other mean to us, how sequence is: But, in a more profound a static image of sexual nakedness. In lived sexual experience sense, the painting 'contains' time and its experience.
It is nakedness is a process rather than a state. If one moment of easy to imagine that a moment ago before she pulled the fur that process is isolated, its image will seem banal and its round her shoulders, she was entirely naked.
The consecutive banality, instead of serving as a bridge between t w o intense stages up to and away from the moment of total disclosure imaginative states, will be chilling. This is one reason why have been transcended. She can belong to any or all of them expressive photographs of the naked are even rarer than simultaneously. The easy solution for the photographer is to turn the Her body confronts us, not as an immediate sight, figure into a nude which, by generalizing both sight and viewer but as experience - the painter's experience.
There are and making sexuality unspecific, turns desire into fantasy. It with which the exaggerated susceptibility of her skin has been is a painting by Rubens of his young second wife whom he painted.
But the profound reason is a formal one. Beneath the fur that she holds across herself, the upper part of her body and her legs can never meet. There is a displacement sideways of about nina inches: Rubens probably did not plan this: In itself it is unimportant. What matters is what it permits. It permits the body to become impossibly dynamic.
Its coherence is no longer within itself but within the experience of the painter. More precisely, it permits the upper and lower halves of the body to rotate separately, and in opposite directions, round the sexual centre which is hidden: At the same time this hidden sexual centre is connected by means of the dark fur coat to all the surrounding darkness in the picture, so that she is turning both around and within the dark which has been made a metaphor for her sex.
Apart from the necessity of transcending the single instant and of admitting subjectivity, there is, as we have seen, one further element which is essential for any great sexual image of the naked. This is the element of banality which must be undisguised but not chilling.
It is this which distinguishes between voyeur and lover. Clearly she will not remain as she is for every ideal convention of form and to him continually offers the promise of her extraordinary particularity. In a superficial sense her image is as. This spirit was inseparable from individualism. This unequal relationship is And without the development of a highly conscious so deeply embedded in our culture that it still structures the individualism the exceptions to the tradition extremely consciousness of many women.
They do to themselves what personal images of the naked , would never have been painted. They survey, like men, their own femininity.
Yet the tradition contained a contradiction which it could not In modern art the category of the nude has itself resolve. A f e w individual artists intuitively recognized become less important.
Artists themselves began to question this and resolved the contradiction in their own terms, but it. In this, as in many other respects, Manet represented a their solutions could never enter the tradition's cultural terms. If one compares his Olympia with Titian's The contradiction can be stated simply. On the original, one sees a woman, cast in the traditional role, one hand the individualism of the artist, the thinker, the beginning to question that role, somewhat defiantly.
The ideal was broken. But there was little to replace it except the ' realism' of the prostitute — who became the quintessential woman of early avant-garde twentieth- century painting. In academic painting the tradition continued. The result would glorify Man. Women are depicted in a quite different way from men - not because the feminine is different from the masculine - but because the 'ideal' spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.
If you have any doubt that this is so, make the following experiment. Choose from this book an image of a traditional nude. Transform the woman into a man. Either in your mind's eye or by drawing on the reproduction. Then notice the violence which that transformation does. Not to the image, but to the assumptions of a likely viewer.
Oil paintings often depict things. Things which in reality are buyable. To have a thing painted and put on a canvas is not unlike buying it and putting it in your house.
If you buy a painting you buy also the look of the thing it represents. The term oil painting ref ers to more than a technique. It defines an art form. The technique of mixing pigments with oil had existed since the ancient world.
But the oil painting as an art form was not born until there was a need to develop and perfect this technique which soon involved using canvas instead of wooden panels in order to express a particular view of life for which the techniques of tempera or What does it show? When oil paint was first used - at the The sort of man in the seventeenth century for beginning of the fifteenth century in Northern Europe - for whom painters painted their paintings.
The oil painting did not fully establish its own I norms, its own way of seeing, until the sixteenth century. Oil paintings are stiil being painted today. Yet ' the basis of its traditional way of seeing was undermined by Impressionism and overthrown by Cubism. At about the same I time the photograph took the place of the oil painting as the 5 principal source of visual imagery. For these reasons the period i of the traditional oil painting may be roughly set as between What are these paintings?
Before they are anything else, they are themselves 5 The tradition, however, stiil forms many of our objects which can be bought and owned. Unique objects. Its norms stiil affect the way we see such subjects as way as he is surrounded by his pictures. It supplies us It is as though the collector Uves in a house built l with our archetypes of 'artistic genius'.
And the history of the of paintings. What is their advantage over walls of stone or J tradition, as it is usually taught, teaches us that art prospers if wood? They show him sights: The pictures in a Florentine palace represented a kind of microcosm in which the proprietor, thanks to his artists, had recreated within easy reach and in as real a form as possible, all those features of the world to which he was attached.
Oil painting did to appearances what capital did to social relations. It reduced everything to the equality of objects. Everything became exchangeable because everything became a commodity.
All reality was mechanically measured by its materiality. The soul, thanks to the Cartesian system, was saved in a category apart. A painting could speak to the soul - by way of what it referred to, but never by the way it envisaged.
Pictures immediately spring to mind to contradict this assertion. Yet if one studies these works in The art of any period tends to serve the relation to the tradition as a whole, one discovers that they ideological interests of the ruling class.
If we were simply were exceptions of a very special kind. A great number have not survived. Of should not be saying anything very new. In fact such a reaction is altogether with a work at the opening of a new period, its character is reasonable. Art history has totally failed to come to terms with undisguised.
The way it is painted shows what it is about. The notion of Genius is not in itself an adequate answer. Third-rate works surround an outstanding work without any recognition - let alone explanation - of what fundamentally differentiates them. The art of any culture will show a wide differential of talent.
But in no other culture is the difference between 'masterpiece' and average work so large as in the tradition of the oil painting. In this tradition the difference is not just a question of skill or imagination, but also of morale. The average work — and increasingly after the seventeenth century - was a work produced more or less cynically: Hack work is not the result of either clumsiness or provincialism; it is the result of the market making more insistent demands than the art.
The period of the oil painting corresponds with the rise of the open art market. And it is in this contradiction between art and market that the explanations must be sought for what amounts to the contrast, the antagonism existing between the exceptional work and the average. Whilst acknowledging the existence of the exceptional works, to which we shall return later, let us first look broadly at the tradition. What distinguishes oil painting from any other form of painting is its special ability to render the tangibility, the texture, the lustre, the solidity of what it depicts.