Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Civilisations: How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith” as Want to Read:
Civilisations: How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Civilisations: How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith

(Civilizations)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,523 ratings  ·  243 reviews

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
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Profile Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Civilisations, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Civilisations

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,523 ratings  ·  243 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Civilisations: How Do We Look / The Eye of Faith
Vipassana
How Do We Look is based off Mary Beard's BBC documentary, Civilisations. That makes it slightly janky as a book but still very informative. Probably would have done better in the coffee table format but I probably would not have picked it up then and I'm happy I did.

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
Christine
When the more recent Civilization was shown on PBS, they edited it a bit from the British version because we can’t have nice things in America since we elected an orange. But they edited out much Mary Beard which is so not right.

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
Margaret Sankey
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and witty art survey, about one of my favorite subjects--people and how they represent themselves. What does it mean politically and socially to be painted "warts and all," or as a hundred foot tall, bare-chested incarnation of Ra? Beard carefully chooses pieces from around the world, setting them in context and revealing how they illustrate the culture's sense of self, power, gender and imagination. ...more
Henk
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
An interesting look at Civilization and what this concept means
“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
Laura Noggle
Oct 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Renowned Cambridge classicist considers how we view art. Short and sweet.

"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
Annikky
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very accessible, maybe even too light and brief, but still so many lovely nuggets of insight.
Charlotte
Reminds me of why I miss my University days. Mary Beard gives us enough information to spark our interest but not so much that it exhausts our appetite for the subject. We aren’t being thrust information that’s purely black and white, this means this and that is that, but being gently guided to ask questions, explore ideas and think more deeply for ourselves.

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
Bettie


watch here

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
Steven Yenzer
Mar 01, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boy oh boy, I hated this book. I haven't seen Civilisations, so I can't compare this companion book to that series. But if the show is anything like How Do We Look, I will be avoiding it.

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
Joshua
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How Do We Look offers the reader a question well worth exploring: how do humans use art to explain how they think and feel about themselves. This is a question stolen directly from an Intro to Art syllabus, but it is a question worth asking because human imagination is arguably the most powerful force in the known universe. It can literally impact the physical world as humans create visions based upon their experiences and perceptions and imaginings, and Beard takes her reader through the centur ...more
Dan Graser
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Beard is still the most engaging writer of the history of the ancient world to be found anywhere and this somewhat smaller work is a clear example of that. The title, "How Do We Look," works on a number of fronts in that it contrasts that simplistic question - usually asked when fishing for compliments - with the more serious questions this work asks, mainly, how have humans traditionally represented themselves and the divine, and, how do we now look back at these representations with moder ...more
Patricia
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
This was accessible and interesting, which are two things I wouldn't often say about art history. ...more
Jon
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading last year that there was a bit of a kerfuffle about the PBS version of the BBC's new Civilisations series--that the shows as seen in Britain had been renamed (respelled to Civilizations), chopped up, edited, and given new voice-overs (dumbed down?) to adapt them for American TV. Classicist Mary Beard, who had written and presented two of the original episodes, was nearly left on the cutting room floor entirely. This book is apparently a presentation and expansion of her episod ...more
Susan
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely little book, beautifully designed, gorgeous jacket and all. Students of art will appreciate the heft of this small volume, those glossy reproductions on that heavy paper. But I know what they say about judging a book by its cover and I did just that.

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
Melora
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this was a four star book. I read it three month ago -- the last book I read before we moved and I temporarily gave up reading. Mary Beard is always good, but that whole period is now a blur.
Frederike
Interesting take on human representation in art (history), embellished with beautiful pictures
Carol
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When a friend mentioned this book to me I put in on my list to read. I am glad I did. I've seen Mary Beard on PBS programs and enjoyed her enthusiasm, so it was a treat to read her passion for the depiction of the body and the divine in our long history of art. The chapters were well delineated and filled with the photographic evidence of what she writes about. She gets her points across succinctly, making this a particularly easy read. My only quibble is that a few of the images are too small t ...more
Nicky
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

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
Edgar
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tl;dr: This is an informative, brief read that gives us some insights into art and the relationship we have had with it over time.

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
Terence
In sum: "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 all of our understanding anyway (the changing ways these objects h ...more
Phil
Oct 29, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sumptuously produced, it was an easy read in one sitting on a rainy afternoon.

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.
Elba
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too condensed and vague. The information seems a little sloppy and weak. I definitely wanted a more complex and deep analysis on the topics discussed.
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
Lily Green
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and easy to read prose! This would be a fantastic addition to a 100 level art history class.
Akemi G.
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of this book is intriguing. Art history often focuses on the artists, and sometimes their models, but seldom the viewers. However, as commissioners of the artwork, as art dealers, and as consumers, viewers determine the value of art and influence the creative processes with their preferences. It's especially interesting in portrait art; how we see ourselves, and even more importantly, how we wish to be seen--the cultural ideal--is manifested in the art.

However, the book fails to dig
...more
Rohase Piercy
I do love Mary Beard, but prefer watching her on TV to reading her articles. However having watched and enjoyed her episodes of 'Civilisations' (much more than I enjoyed Simon Schama's!) it was a pleasure to read this beautifully illustrated volume and remind myself of all the fascinating things she said! I did have a bit of a beef with the second part though, 'The Eye of Faith' - she's looking at religious art/representations of the Divine and makes several comparisons between 'idol makers' and ...more
Michael Belcher
Beard’s effort is a wide-ranging, generalist overview filled with gorgeous photography that reads like a breezy, chatty television program. And indeed, the Civilizations series is its counterpart. This charming survey of famous sites and curiosities throughout the Western and Eastern worlds is definitely too analytically anemic for scholars, especially in the rather rote sections on Greek art (Beard has been talking about Greece for a long time, and the thinness of new discovery is beginning to ...more
Coral Davies
It's hard to review a book that accompanies a documentary. I felt this was well written, well researched and certainly introduced me to ideas, places and artwork I had never encountered all while being incredibly accessible (which, as a layman, I truly appreciate!).

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
Anne Fenn
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Another very interesting brief book by Mary Beard. Again it's in two parts. The first looks at the fact we have had art in our world for thousands of centuries. How was it first formed? She always takes a multiview , from who made it, how, who was it made by, the audiences, then and through the ages for the same things. Her writing is very accessible, direct, entertaining. Part two is very interesting, looking at the artworks of the world's chief religions. It made me realise just how different ...more
Cris Edwards
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brief but compelling book about how people see themselves as evidenced by the art they have created throughout history. The first half of the book looks at how people have depicted themselves in art and how it reflects their views while the second half is about how images of the divine [religious or spiritual] have been shown using some interesting examples. I found this very thought-provoking, with lovely examples in color photos, and wanted it to be a bit longer to carry the speculations Bea ...more
Tine
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: antiquity
Based on BBC series Civilisations (an answer to Kenneth Clark's 1969 Civilisation); two parts: "how do we look" and "the eye of faith". My favourite part is the former. Our gaze is always culturally determined - something we should be more aware of. The latter part introduces us to the influence of faith (religious, or generally existential) on our perception and use of images.
Plenty of pictures and art illustrations - this must be the challenge of translating documentaries to a book. Examples
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Civilisations: First Contact / The Cult of Progress: As seen on TV
  • Petit guide de la préhistoire
  • Воры, вандалы и идиоты. Криминальная история русского искусства
  • Риф
  • Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image
  • Venus and Aphrodite: A Biography of Desire
  • Изобретено в СССР: История изобретательской мысли с 1917 по 1991 год
  • Смерть замечательных людей
  • The Colosseum
  • Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals
  • Япония. Введение в искусство и культуру
  • Balmaceda
  • Омерзительное искусство. Юмор и хоррор шедевров живописи
  • Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History
  • Ancient Bones: Unearthing the Astonishing New Story of How We Became Human
  • О чём говорят бестселлеры
  • Historia Universal Freak volumen 2: un relato desde Napoleón hasta nuestros días a través de 763 curiosidades
  • Persiguiendo a Einstein
See similar books…
2,189 followers

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

News & Interviews

Twists, turns, red herrings, the usual suspects: These books have it all...and more. If you love mysteries and thrillers, get ready for dozens...
148 likes · 33 comments
“One of its (civilisations) 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. The boundary between 'us' and 'them' may be an internal one (for much of world history the idea of a 'civilised woman' has been a contradiction in terms), or an external one, as the word 'barbarian' suggests; it was originally a derogatory and ethnocentric ancient Greek term for foreigners you could not understand, because they spoke in an incomprehensible babble: 'bar-bar-bar ...' The inconvenient truth, of course, is that so-called 'barbarians' may be no more than those with a different view from ourselves of what it is to be civilised, and of what matters in human culture. In the end, one person's barbarity is another person's civilisation.” 2 likes
“a reminder that the body beautiful was not so very far from the body brutalised.” 0 likes
More quotes…