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Selected Essays

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  164 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The writing career of John Berger–poet, storyteller, playwright, and essayist–has yielded some of the most original and compelling examinations of art and life of the past half century. In this essential volume, Geoff Dyer has brought together a rich selection of many of Berger’s seminal essays.

Berger’s insights make it impossible to look at a painting, watch a film, or e
ebook, 608 pages
Published December 10th 2008 by Vintage (first published December 26th 2001)
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Berger is a model essayist. He writes with perfect clarity. Though he situates his art criticism in a Marxist framework, he never loses sight of the mysterious moment of looking at paintings, a moment that resists theory. This is best exemplified in his essay 'The Work of Art' which is an argument against a fellow Marxist, Nicos Hadjinicolaou who sets out to construct a scientific Marxist art theory and fails, because, as Berger argues, "no painting of value is about appearances: it is about the ...more
Jee Koh
It is astonishing to me how consistent John Berger was in over 30 years of art criticism. His judgment of an artist could become more developed and refined, more elaborated, but the underlying sense of the artist's purpose and value remained the same. This consistency of seeing came from a coherent philosophy of art criticism. As Berger puts it in his "Introduction" to Permanent Red, which is also aptly the introductory essay of this Selected Essays edited by Geoff Dyer, the art critic must firs ...more
Time and time again I find myself moved by Berger's meditations on art. Great art in itself, his writing has the power to reveal the invisible essence of an artist's work--that quality which transforms a painting or a sculpture from just an object into a kind of living being. He has taught me how to be with art, to speak to it and to listen, making meaning together. Artists I've simply ignored like Degas and Hals become transfigured in his writing and I see their work with new eyes. Other favori ...more
Mar 30, 2008 Jude rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who uses the word "art" in a sentence
THE. BEST. WORDS ABOUT ART. ever. a revelation to someone who had been looking at art all her life and didn't know why she loved Modigliani but really not quite ever Renoir.

accessible, elegant and warm. demanding, critical, political.
this is the friend who makes going to the museum an encounter with the history of desire and power, whose love for what art is not only informs you but changes who you are when you are with art.
I'm sorry, but it got a bit bored and aborted my read. A lot of things that were mentioned in the book did not interest me, but I'm sure he will have entertained those who enjoyed the subjects he discussed at length.
M. Sarki
I liked this book enough that I do recommend the reading of it by others, especially those interested and obsessed with painting and painters. Seems that is what Berger is most interested in. But I would have liked the selection better had the essays been more personal. I explain why in my more extensive review found here:
Cynthia Davidson
A deep thinker, who turned me on to Caravaggio, whose paintings I had never seen till now.
He's a loner, yet he's loyal. He's a resister, yet he's engaged with life at a deeper level than the 'hit & run' types of today. Living so long in France, he's also gained more insight into his own British culture...
Hope to get into his novels.
There's a lot here -- some of it more to my taste than others. But the best parts are utterly fantastic, and the progression of the book over decades, from politically-infused art criticism to pastoral thoughts on mortality, amasses its own kind of weight.
a wonderfully succinct yet thorough collection of essays on modern artists. the historical context expertly complements his analysis of varying movements as they relate to each artist. I admire john berger.
JB selectively recaps an artist's biography or process in two to three pages then writes a single surprising and mind-quieting insight you've never heard before. And you're glad.
This was one of the 2003 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Worth it just for the article on shoveling shit out of his compost toilet. I've even argued that this essay encapsulates Berger's entire aesthetic.
Sara Willis
Buy this book now. Or steal it. Or borrow it. Don't just read it, eat it and let it grow inside you.
Art and politics -- what a wonderful combo. And nobody writes about it better than John Berger.
excellent collection of his best essays. the man can definitely write about art.
R L Swihart
Kept my attention. Lots of interesting topics.
This man is wonderful. He changed my life.
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John Peter Berger is an English art critic, novelist, painter and author. His novel G. won the 1972 Booker Prize, and his essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a BBC series, is often used as a college text.
More about John Berger...
Ways of Seeing About Looking G. To the Wedding And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

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