Yesterday it was announced that the influential art critic, painter, poet, and Booker Prize winning author John Berger has passed away, aged 90. He published his first novel ‘A Painter of our Time’ in 1958 and his picaresque novel ‘G’ won the Booker Prize in 1972. Berger was a real visionary, transforming the way we view and understand art with his profound book ‘Ways of Seeing,’ from which a 1972 BBC series was created. Without his work, we surely wouldn’t appreciate and read art in the same way that we do today. To celebrate his legacy, we’ve collected our favourite quotes from Berger.
“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”
“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for you own pleasure.”
“When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.”
“Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.”
“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied … but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.”