Civilisations: How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith
Companion to the major new BBC documentary series CIVILISATIONS, presented by Mary Beard, David Olusoga and Simon Schama
The idea of 'civilisation' has always been debated, even fought over. At the heart of those debates lies the big question of how people - from prehistory to the present day - have depicted themselves and others, both human and divine. Distinguished hi...more
The book centers on the experience of the consumer of ancient art through two lenses: the body and faith. Beard cautions us from thinking of art and architecture from the context of a museum and asks us to engage with it as the peopl ...more
Really not right.
So if you are wondering why Mary Beard wrote a book that functions as a companion to the series, that's why. It is a look at how the viewer interacts with art. She focuses on ancient and religious art. There is some cool bits about the ancient world, ...more
“One of its most powerful weapons has always been ‘barbarity’: we know that we are civilised by contrasting ourselves with those we deem to be uncivilised, with those who do not - or cannot be trusted to - share our values. Civilisation is a process of exclusion as well as inclusion”
“In the end, one person’s barbarity is another person’s civilisation”
Mary Beard shows in this short and beautifully illustrated book two aspects of art. ...more
"So much depends on who is looking, from ancient master or ancient slave to eighteenth-century connoisseur or twenty-first-century tourist. And so much depends on the context in which they look, whether ancient cemetery or temple, English stately home or modern museum. I am not sure that it is ever possible entirely to recreate the views of those who first saw classical art, and I am not sure that it is the be all and end a ...more
Plain speaking and very accessible, touching on a broad range for the length of the book, I hadn’t really planned to blitz through in one s ...more
1: The first film by Simon Schama looks at the formative role art and the creative imagination have played in the forging of humanity itself.
2: Mary Beard explores images of the human body in ancient art, from Mexico and Greece to Egypt and China
3: Simon Schama explores the depiction of nature. Simon discovers that landscape painting is seldom a straightforward description of observed nature
4: Professor Mary Beard explores the controversial topic of religion and art. How, and at what ...more
Beard's approach is to tell a historical anecdote or recount the details of a piece of art and then extrapolate vague, high-sounding proclamations from it — usually without providing any evidence for these proclamations. For example, in writing about the out-of-order scenes of the Buddha’s life depicted in the A ...more
Having really enjoyed this author’s magnum opus, SPQR, I went ahead and purchased this book without realizing that it is based on a television program, albeit a quality television program of the highest order. But A TELEVISION PROGRA ...more
This volume is a slightly odd book in that the two halves aren’t really related, except by being companions to the same TV series, Civilisation. The first half looks at how the human body has been portrayed throughout history — so both what we look like and how we see ourselves — and the second half discusses portraying the divine, iconoclasm, and art history through that lens.
It’s a pretty quick read, with illustrative photos: this is a companion to a TV series, a ...more
I was a little surprised to see Olmec art in the book as it is typically the Aztecs, Mayans and Incans that get the burn in most books, but each of the art selections underscores a point Beard likes to make in each chapter. In this book, we are treated to writing on a number of notables artworks.
The Olmec heads get to kickstart the book. As we know very little about t ...more
Mary Beard is a classicist of the highest order, yet this book was, for me, a prime example of overreaching. Her credentials as an art historian or critic are clearly lacking. Her statements are often pedestrian, and her ignorance of religion and art beyond Christianity and Judaism shallow.
It is definitely a good place to start on religious iconography and the way it impacts our views on religion. But this book will only provide valuable information if you truly don't know (or have never thought of) these topics. ...more
However, the book fails to dig ...more
However, as Beard admits herself, her story has no single running thread and is therefor not a coherent narrative. Rather, its a quick dash around the world, highlighting interesting and exciting things that raise a number of questio ...more
Plenty of pictures and art illustrations - this must be the challenge of translating documentaries to a book. Examples ...more
Winifred Mary Beard (born 1 January 1955) is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of Newnham College. She is the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "A Don's Life", which appears on The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements have led to her being described as "Brita ...more