John Berger, “Ways of Seeing” #II

Women were a constant recurring plot in European oil painting. Adam and Eve were the first nudes. Their nakedness represented shame. Over time, these conventions have changed and nakedness of Adam and Eve transformed into a kind of game with the audience. According to Berger, nakedness and nude are completely different concepts. To be naked means to be yourself, without any mask. At the same time, nude is to expose oneself to the viewer, i.e. permission to see yourself naked. I had my own experience working with nude, but not as a model, but as a painter. I was a student at the University of Architecture in my hometown. After graduation, I professionally worked as a photographer. In both cases, I had to work with nudity. At the university, we often painted the naked bodies of antique statues. However, later working as a photographer I often received orders for a nude-style photo session.


From the time of Adam and Eve, a woman was punished and subjugated to a man, and a man became a representative of God. Men and women in the works of European art had different positions. A man took the place of the beholder, being an artist or owner of a nude painting. However, the woman was an object that the man was looking at, in other words, the woman was a sight to behold. Currently, the roles of women and men are rapidly changing, equalizing the positions of both sexes in society. European works of art are simply a reminder to women that they are no longer just a thing in the eyes of men. At the same time, women understand the power of their charm and beauty.


Another equally important subject that is present in the works of European art is a mirror. According to Berger, a mirror in oil painting is a kind of approval of a woman to see her naked. Berger also says that the mirror in the hands of women was most often symbolized as female vanity. However, the author himself considers this hypocrisy by the artist: the artist first gives the woman a mirror and then accuses her of vanity. Berger also notes the look of naked women on the canvases of European art. He claims that women look with charm as if they are looking at a man who possesses her. In modern art, nakedness has become less important. However, women are still portrayed in order to flatter the man to the viewer.

One thought on “John Berger, “Ways of Seeing” #II

  1. ambika lama

    i was really hoping to read some life experience about arts through an eye of a painter.And here you are.And also you’re a photographer. I think you can relate much more than us as painter).But bergers have change the way we can see the arts .YOu have describe art and nude with your experience .

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