This is the last article you can read this month
You can read more article this month
You can read more articles this month
Sorry your limit is up for this month
Landscapes: John Berger on Art
Edited by Tom Overton
JOHN BERGER is Britain’s foremost art critic and a lifelong Marxist and his incisive methodology and insights into art as a creative process, within a social and historical context, have revolutionised the way we look at images and understand the creative process.
In this wonderful book of selected essays from his wide oeuvre, there are graphic vignettes on leading critics like Frederick Antal, Max Raphael, Walter Benjamin and Ernst Fischer, together with reflections on individual artists and movements.
Perhaps his most succinct and clearest explanation of the role of art and of the critic is contained in his 1959 essay The Ideal Critic and the Fighting Critic, first published in Permanent Red.
And there are accounts of village life in the French Alps where Berger lives, discourses on Palestine and a letter to Rosa Luxemburg.
It’s a joy to discover with him the challenges and sensual pleasure of art, together with its role in social development as well as its misappropriation as a profitable investment for the wealthy. As Berger argues: “Art is treated as a commodity whose meaning lies only in its rarity value and in its function as a stimulant of sensation. It ceases to have implications beyond itself.”
Berger is not always easy to read and can sometimes be convoluted — he makes you work — but he is never boring, forcing readers to rethink their own concepts.
And he’s a true innovator, taking Marxism beyond Marx. He points out that Marx posed a question that he could not answer: “If art, in the last analysis, is a superstructure of the economic base, why does its power to move us endure long after the base has been transformed?” A profound question, that Berger has grappled with throughout his life.
Marx left only fragmentary and not very illuminating comments on art — he was, after all, very much a product of his era — but Berger uses his methodology of analysis and thinking and applies it to the artistic process with illuminating panache.
He is a painterly writer and, because of his artist’s training, has an acute visual sense. Able to penetrate beneath surface colour and form, no-one is better able to describe or explain what art is all about than Berger.
Landscapes is an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating read and a timely reminder of why Berger’s stature as art critic and social commentator is so great.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £10 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.