John Berger Seeing Comes First

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Donny Halim

Jeff Cravello


October 28, 2010

Seeing Comes First

One of the most important senses that we human have is the ability to see things. We see the image of the object first before the image is send to our brain and processes it. The essay “Ways of Seeing”, written by John Berger took art as an example, to show the way how modern people view art and the influences that traditional oil painting has had on society and modern day society. The way people now a day perceives an art image is different than the way it was seen before. People nowadays have the idea that a painting is an image that the painter painted and whatever it is there is always a reason for it. And most of us going to art museum have the assumption of wanting to find the truth within the image, trying to link history to the present. These assumptions only make the past more unclear and does not clarify, but mystify. According to Berger, most painters are not searching for fame, such as the painter Frans Hals, who lived off public charity in order to be able to produce works. This has changed over time too due the birth of camera, since paintings are widely accessible; people go to museums viewing art because of its fame. More painting are being seen in public now, and the more people who seen it the more fame it will gain. This will eventually lose the value of art.

In the world today, we see art not only because it’s the one and only painting, but as John Berger mentioned in the essay, people look at art with an idea that it have the elements or characteristic, such as beauty, truth, genius, civilization, form, status, taste and etc. We examine art as if those traits and characteristic must be presented, in order for us to enjoy viewing it. However, we all may know or not know that the only person who can give us the answer we are looking for is the artist himself. This brings up the word “mystification”, which is when we people look at an art...
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