In his essay “Images of Women in European Art,” John Berger compares the relationship between the surveyor and the surveyed in traditional nude European art. Typically in European art, the surveyor, usually a man, views and objectifies the nude women in the paintings. Furthermore, Berger places a large emphasis on the difference between nakedness and nudity, nakedness being the state of lacking clothes whereas nudity is the state where nakedness is objectified as an art form. Berger claims that the subject of most traditional European paintings is of the nude female figure, rather than the naked. However, there exist anomalies, such as in Ruben’s painting of his wife, where she is simply in a process of nakedness than a posed nudity. Ultimately, the dynamism of the work, unintended by the artist, allows the women in the artwork to transcend from being viewed as an object to a higher state of a naked human being.
Berger, thus, focuses on the portrayal of the nude as an objectification and denigration of women in European art. However, Berger continues, what makes his essay relevant is the fact that this objectification of women is not simply limited to European art, but continues in modern society even today. Berger chooses this topic to bring to light the social inequality between men and women.
Within his essay, Berger utilizes many repetitions, strands and binaries in his argument. Repetitions in the essay include “nude,” “nakedness,” “surveyor,” and the “surveyed.” Similarly, Berger has strands in his essay such as the subject of “we,” and the rhetorical questioning. Finally, the binaries are illustrated by the idea of what it means to be a man versus a woman and the idea of nakedness versus nudeness. Ultimately, it appears that the binaries are the key to understanding Berger’s argument about men and women. Through examining the contrasts between the idea of men and woman and the idea nakedness and nudeness, we can arrive at a clearer understanding of...
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