Paper on John Berger: Ways of Seeing - Examining Art & Tradition

Paper Type:  Book review
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  698 Words
Date:  2023-11-19

Ways of Seeing by John Berger is grounded on a four-part BBC television series of the same name (Berger, 2008). In this novel, Berger discusses the traditional Western aesthetics traditions and ideas hidden within the visual arts. The book is made up of seven essays, four written essays as well as three symbolic stories (Berger, 2008). Via individual discussions, Berger is hoping to raise questions to his readers and apply the basics learned in the book to their art.

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John Berger is an English art critic, artist, novelist, and writer. In Ways of Seeing, Berger integrates the basics he has acquired in writing and artwork to generate a complete narrative in order to deliberate on specific issues (Berger, 2008). As mentioned above, Berger’s ultimate goal is to raise questions within the minds of readers. The book was written in the first person, using such expressions as “our” and “we.” The use of this concept obviously connects a lot to the reader (Berger, 2008). Berger's target audience is apparently art students, or just anyone interested in learning what art is like from the way we view the world.

Regarding originality, Chapter One has numerous issues taken by Walter Benjamin, a critic and German philosopher (Berger, 2008). I do not condone his usage of numerous principles of Benjamin, but I am grateful that Berger ended this chapter by stating him and the story in which he took his ideas: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (Berger, 2008). In Ways of Seeing, Berger is seen as maintaining a tone that is weak, but full of confidence. At one point he relied less on his philosophies, Berger lost his succinctness and this made it challenging for readers to continue learning at their previous pace (Berger, 2008). However, I believe this novel is worthy of the audience he hoped to reach.

One of my interesting things about Ways of Seeing was the manner in which it was organized, especially the way the written descriptions were followed by descriptive descriptions. As a visual person, I prefer the figurative meanings rather than the written ones; however, Chapter Four was very difficult for me to interpret (Berger, 2008). After finishing this book, I realized that I had changed the way I view advertising, oil paintings, and the amazing state of the art created by paintings (paintings of centuries ago depict the dead, however, their portraits still exist). Also, Berger has certainly achieved his goal of leaving the student with questions; I have had many discussions with my classmates to see how they interpret different chapters and how they have changed the way they look at their art and the art around them (Berger, 2008). Without a doubt, I would recommend this book to other students studying material art, but I do not believe I would recommend it to people outside the field of study because they will not fully appreciate the issues discussed.

The feature of this novel that I think is amazing is that the principles discussed forty years ago still apply to the arts today (Berger, 2008). Advertisers continue to use female genitals to attract male audiences, and the responses to popular cartoons continue to undermine the context in which the original creation was created (Berger, 2008). Sometimes I disagree with Berger's strong argument, but I believe most of them are valid. Undoubtedly this novel connects to the principles taught in other literary works and this makes me interested in watching a television series.


Overall, I have a good idea for this novel. At one point the relationship between John Berger and me was unstoppable and I began to question his beliefs and philosophies, but he always took me back to a routine that made me nod my head to acknowledge and respect him more. I really enjoyed the Ways of Seeing due to its organization and the use of graphic descriptions. There are some aspects of this book that I could change if I could, but if taken as a whole, I would no doubt recommend it to any art student.


Berger, J. (2008). Ways of seeing (1st ed., pp. 6-154). London: Penguin Books.

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