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John Berger an art critic, a novelist and an author was born in England in 1926 and attended school there before joining the army. His critic background stemmed while teaching drawing in London schools. After dropping from the army he avoided criticizing the Soviet Union but later his views of the same union became more critical. It is also beneficial to know that, in 1962, Berger drove himself out of Britain to a self imposed exile due to considering his life distasteful in England.
The article “Images of women in European Art” is part of Berger’s book “Ways of seeing”. In this book, Berger makes the reader see art in a different perspective by arguing the world to be dissimilar from what it is actually. This is made clear by the use of pictures instead of words. A woman’s image in European art portrays a number of fallacies, women are considered to be sensuous objects whose role is to arouse men. The author sees a difference between being naked and being nude. Being naked is to be oneself but being nude is to be seen naked by other people. Berger asserts that women are inactive objects that are always available. Berger in his article concludes that people’s perception of art is directly defined by the assumptions they have towards genius, truth and civilization (Morriss, 2007).
The inequality exhibited in men and women has been strongly grounded on the fact that still it reflects the level of consciousness of a majority of the women. Women in the society always see themselves in the manner in which men see them. They also treat themselves the way men treat them. This is the chief legacy that he highlights in this article. It also shapes the way in which the artists view women.
Being a painter, John Berger derived most of his opinions from his work. The nude women pictures in museums represented sexual objects whereas those of men had different perceptions. He argued that in the past nude male paintings were seen as a way in which the imitated Christians messiah. They were seen as striving to be like Jesus. Currently the same male nude pictures symbolize strength, a form of exuding virility. Those for women represent pornographic. The question is, why the biasness both men and women are nude but they are accorded different perceptions. Why is the woman portrayed in a negative form?
Berger has played a role in modern female thinking by exploring depictions of women in classical painting and in advertising. He takes on the subject straightforwardly, taking into question the entire women’s classical images. Berger’s conclusion and that of his interviewees is that the nude women’s paintings’ is nothing more than pornography, objects that can be consumed, abused and violated. However, Berger is not without faults. His appeal of oil paintings portrays them as the highest of visual forms, a case that may not be true. Berger’s reliance on his own arguments and opinions, too, brings problems. In almost half of his arguments, he hasn’t had a single female critic discussing the subject. Berger proficiently weaves the visual with discussions on the subject of the visual in clear-cut and jargon less language, without looking into art school discussion-style solipsism, ambiguity, tautology, or prevarication.
The issue of judging a woman as beautiful is an artist’s perspective which also varies from how one perceives it. Man has incorporated idea of looking at a woman and judging her as either beautiful or not which has resulted into a beauty contest. Those women who are considered to be beautiful, gets the price, and those who are not, do not get any reward. This is how men have set standards for women to use in judging themselves and a number of other abilities that men have set too. For instance, there are women writers, painters who have excelled in this field and have won themselves prices (Berger, 1972).
Berger argues that the woman’s sexuality should be minimized so that the male audience has control of passion being exuded. He says that women are there to fuel and feed the male’s appetite. It is hypocrisy that men paint nude women pictures because they enjoy looking at them and then shove the picture to the woman to look at her shame. There is a double audience for the nude women pictures; this is both from the men and the women themselves. He says that a woman who looks at herself is considered as a narcissist while a man who looks at whatever he likes is considered an art connoisseur.
The male nudity is a closer perfection than that of female. Miles discussions regarding Adam and Eve are based on this argument. He emphasizes that Eve’s believed guilt in the fall of man and her creation from the body of Adam have been conventionally treated as the reasons of Eve’s weakness to Adam. If Eve is a representation of every woman, her imperfections speak to the common limitation of women and their shared sinfulness.
Based on Berger’s Miles views, the treatment of all women by Christianity as potential witches and the credence of their expected vulnerability to evil are seen as unfairness paid to the depiction of women. Representation of women according to Berger has fallen victim to two systems a) The use of their bodies to provoke the male gaze and the ultimate objectification of women b) The aversive and negative treatment in western Christianity.
In the Judgment of Paris, a story presumably originated by men displays the vanity of female: a dispute of three goddesses over their individual beauty triggers the meeting with Paris, the inducement and the consequences. Then their characters are with vindictiveness and conceit fleshed out, so there is no way that a safe decision can be made by Paris, let alone one that is just. The goddesses are blamed for all of it. Supposedly, as Berger suggests, Paris and other male viewers have the authority of judgment over the female beauty, but inside the world of the story, the real authority is with the goddesses.
Berger’s representation of facts about women can be generalized as fallacies that try to define nudity of women, a claim that is not fair. The nude presentation of women poses several discussions on whether women are really sensual objects that are just there for the amusement of men. The techniques Berger has used are not a good representation of women. Contrary to Berger’s believes, women are not passive in the society and are not sexual symbols. The oil paintings of naked people of whether male or female constitute nudity and should be viewed in the same way as nudity in women is viewed.
On the other hand though, it is important to take a consideration of the fact that women and men relationship during the time of the art work by Berger heavily affected the manner in which he painted women in the society. Contextualizing the article at the time that he was doing the work, it would be reasonable to appreciate the fact that as per that period of time, women were highly considered as being far much less than men in the society. Berger was therefore acting in reference to the society that he existed in.
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