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A book made by

John Berger, Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox, M ichael Dibb, Richard Hollis

based on the BBC television series with


B ritish Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books

Published by the British Broadcasting Corporation, 35 M arylebone High Street, London W1M 4AA ISBN 0 563 122447 and by P E N G U IN BO O K S Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ. England Viking Penguin, a division o f Penguin Books USA Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U SA Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia Penguin Books Canada Ltd. 2801 John Street. M arkham. Ontario, Canada L3R 1B4 Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd. 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10. New Zealand Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth. Middlesex, England ISBN 0 14 021631 6 First published in Great Britain by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books Ltd 1972 30 29 28 27 First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press (A Richard Seaver Book) 1973 Published in Penguin Books in the United States o f America 1977 Copyright in all countries of the International Copyright Union 1972 by Penguin Books Ltd All rights reserved Printed in England by Clays Ltd, St Ives pic Filmsel in M onophoto IJnivers Except in the United States o f America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in w.hich it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

N ote to the reader

This book has been made by five o f us. Our s ta rtin g point w as some o f the ideas contained in th e television series Ways of Seeing. W e have trie d to extend and elaborate these ideas. They have influenced not only w h a t w e say but also h o w w e have set about tryin g to say it. The fo rm o f the book is as much to do w ith our purpose as the argum ents contained w ith in it. The book consists o f seven numbered essays. They can be read in any order. Four o f the essays use w ords and images, three o f them use only images. These purely picto rial essays (on w ays o f seeing w om en and on various con tradicto ry aspects o f th e tra d itio n o f the oil p ainting) are intended to raise as many questions as th e verbal essays. Som etim es in the pictorial essays no in form ation a t all is given about the images reproduced because it seemed to us th a t such in fo rm atio n m ight d is tra c t fro m the points being made. In all cases, how ever, th is in fo rm ation can be found in the List of Works Reproduced w h ich is printed a t the end o f th e book. None o f the essays pretends to deal w ith more than certain aspects o f each subject: particularly those aspects th ro w n into relief by a modern historical consciousness. Our principal aim has been to s ta rt a process o f questioning.

Seeing comes before w o rd s. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.

But there is also another sense in w hich seeing conies before w o rd s. It is seeing w hich establishes our place in the surrounding w o rld ; w e explain th a t w o rld w ith w ords, but w o rd s can never undo the fa c t th a t w e are surrounded by it. The relation b etw een w h a t w e see and w h a t w e k n o w is never settled . Each evening w e see the sun set. W e know th a t the earth is turning aw ay fro m it. Y e t th e know ledge, the explanation, never q uite fits the sight. The S urrealist painter M a g ritte com m ented on this a lw ays-p resen t gap betw een w o rds and seeing in a painting called The Key of Dreams.

The w ay w e see things is a ffec te d by w h a t w e k n o w or w h a t w e believe. In the M id d le Ages w hen men believed in th e physical existence o f Hell the sight o f fire m ust have m eant som ething d iffe re n t fro m w h a t it means today. Nevertheless th e ir idea o f Hell ow ed a lo t to the sight o f fire consuming and the ashes rem aining —as w e ll as to th e ir experience o f th e pain o f burns. W hen in love, the sig ht o f the beloved has a com pleteness w h ich no w o rd s and no embrace can m atch : a com pleteness w hich only th e a ct o f m aking love can tem porarily accom m odate. Y e t this seeing w hich comes before w o rd s, and can never be quite covered by them , is not a question o f m echanically reacting to stim uli. ( I t can only be tho u g h t o f in this w ay if one isolates the small p art o f the process w hich concerns the eye's retina.) W e only see w h a t w e look at. To look is an act o f choice. As a result o f this act, w h a t w e see is brought w ith in our reach - though not necessarily w ith in arm 's reach. T o touch som ething is to situ ate oneself in relation to it. (Close your eyes, move round the room and

notice h o w th e fa c u lty o f touch is like a s tatic, lim ited fo rm o f sight.) W e never look at ju s t one th in g ; w e are alw ays looking at tne relation b etw een things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itse lf, co n stitu tin g w h a t is present to us as w e are. Soon a fte r w e can see, w e are a w are th a t w e can also be seen. The eye o f the o ther com bines w ith our ow n eye to m ake it fu lly credible th a t w e are p art o f th e visible w o rld . I f w e accept th a t w e can see th a t hill over there, w e propose th a t fro m th a t hill w e can be seen. The reciprocal nature o f vision is more fundam ental than th a t o f spoken dialogue. And o fte n dialogue is an a tte m p t to verbalize this an a tte m p t to explain how , e ith er m etaphorically or literally, J you see th in g s ', and an a tte m p t to discover h o w 'he sees th in g s '. In the sense in w hich w e use the w o rd in this book, all im ages are m an-m ade.

An im age is a sight w hich has been recreated or reproduced. It is an appearance, or a set of appearances, w h ich has been detached fro m the place and tim e

in w hich it firs t made its appearance and preserved - fo r a fe w m om ents or a fe w centuries. Every image embodies a w ay of seeing. Even a photograph. For photographs are not, as is o ften assum ed, a mechanical record. Every tim e w e look a t a photograph, w e are aw are, h ow ever slightly, o f the photographer selecting th a t sig ht fro m an in fin ity o f o th er possible sights. This is true even in the m ost casual fam ily snapshot. The photographer's w ay o f seeing is reflected in his choice o f subject. The painter's w ay o f seeing is reco n stitu ted by the m arks he m akes on the canvas or paper. Y et, although every im age embodies a w ay o f seeing, our perception or appreciation o f an image depends also upon our ow n w a y o f seeing. ( I t may be, fo r example, th a t Sheila is one fig u re am onj tw e n ty ; but fo r our ow n reasons she is the one w e have eyes fo r.)

Im ages w e re firs t made to conjure up the appearances o f som ething th a t w a s absent. Gradually it became evident th a t an im age could o u tlast w h a t it represented; it then showed h ow som ething or som ebody had once looked - and thus by im plication how the subject had once been seen by o ther people. Later still the specific vision o f the im age-m aker w as also recognized as p art o f the record. An im age became a record o f h o w X had seen Y. This w a s the result o f an increasing consciousness o f individuality, accom panying an increasing aw areness o f history. It w o u ld be rash to try to date th is last developm ent precisely. But certainly in Europe such consciousness has existed since the beginning o f the Renaissance. No o th er kind o f relic or te x t fro m the past can o ffe r such a d irect testim o ny about the w o rld w hich surrounded other people at o th er tim es. In this respect images are more precise and richer than lite ratu re. To say this is not to deny the expressive or im aginative quality o f art, treatin g it as mere docum entary evidence; the more imaginati% the w o rk , the more profoundly it allo w s us to share the a rtis t's experience o f the visible.

Y e t w hen an image is presented as a w o rk o f art, the w ay people look a t it is affected by a w h o le series o f learnt assum ptions about art. Assum ptions concern ing : Beauty T ru th Genius Civilization Form Statu s Taste, etc. M any o f these assum ptions no longer accord w ith the w o rld as it is. (The w o rld -a s -it-is is more than pure objective fa c t, it includes consciousness.) O ut o f tru e w ith the present, these assum ptions obscure the past. They m ystify rather than clarify. The past is never there w a itin g to be discovered, to be recognized fo r exactly w h a t it is. H istory alw ays c o n s titu tes th e relation betw een a present and its past. Consequently fe a r o f the present leads to m ystificatio n o f the past. The past is not fo r living in ; it is a w e ll o f conclusions from w hich w e d ra w in order to act. C ultural m ystificatio n o f the past entails a double loss. W o rks o f a rt are made unnecessarily rem ote. And the past o ffe rs us fe w e r conclusions to com plete in action. W hen w e 'see' a landscape, w e situ ate ourselves in it. If w e 's a w ' th e a rt o f th e past, w e w o u ld situate ourselves in history. W hen w e are prevented fro m seeing it, w e are being deprived o f the history w h ic h belongs to us. W ho b en efits fro m th is deprivation? In th e end, the a rt o f the past is being m y stified because a privileged m inority is striving to invent a history w h ich can retrospectively ju s tify the role o f the ruling classes, and such a ju s tific a tio n can no longer m ake sense in modern term s. And so, inevitably, it m ystifies. Let us consider a typical exam ple o f such m ystificatio n. A tw o -v o lu m e study w as recently published on Frans Hals.* It is the a u th o ritativ e w o rk to date on this painter. As a book o f specialized a rt history it is no b e tte r and no w orse than th e average.

The last tw o g reat paintings by Frans Hals p o rtn the Governors and the Governesses o f an Alm s House fo r old paupers in the Dutch seventeenth-century city o f Haarlem . They w e re o ffic ia lly com m issioned p o rtraits. Hals, an old mail

o f over eighty, w as d estitu te. M o s t o f his life he had been in debt. During th e w in te r o f 1664, the year he began painting these pictures, he obtained three loads o f peat on public charity, o th e rw is e he w o u ld have frozen to death. Those w h o now sat fo r him w e re adm inistrators o f such public charity. T he author records these fa c ts and then exp licitly says th a t it w o u ld be incorrect to read into the paintings any criticism o f th e s itte rs. There is no evidence, he says, th a t Hals painted them in a s pirit o f b ittern ess. The author considers them , how ever, rem arkable w o rk s o f a rt and explains w h y. Here he w rite s o f the R egentesses:
Each woman speaks to us of the human condition with equal importance. Each woman stands out with equal clarity against the enormous dark surface, yet they are linked by a firm rhythmical arrangement and the subdued diagonal pattern formed by their heads and hands. Subtle modulations of the deep, glowing blacks contribute to the harmonious fusion of the whole and form an unforgettable contrast with the powerful whites and vivid flesh tones where the detached strokes reach a peak of breadth and strength, (our italics)

The com positional unity o f a painting contributes fundam entally to the p o w er o f its image. It is reasonable to consider a painting's com position. But here the com position is w ritte n about as though it w e re in its e lf the em otional charge o f the painting. Term s like harmonious fusion, unforgettable contrast, reaching a peak of breadth and strength tran s fe r th e em otion provoked by the image fro m the plane of lived experience, to th a t of disinterested J art a p p r e c ia t io n A ll c o n flic t disappears. One is le ft w ith the unchanging 'h u m an c o n d itio n ', and th e painting considered as a m arvellously made object. Very little is know n about Hals or the Regents w ho com m issioned him. It is not possible to produce circum stantial evidence to establish w h a t th e ir relations w ere. But there is the evidence o f the paintings them selves: the evidence o f a group o f men and a group o f w om en as seen by another man, the painter. Study th is evidence and judge fo r yourself.

The a rt historian fears such d irect ju d g em en t:
As in so many other pictures by Hals, the penetrating characterizations almost seduce us into believing that we know the personality traits and even the habits of the men and women portrayed.

W h a t is th is 's e d u c tio n ' he w rite s o f? It is nothing less than the paintings w o rk in g upon*us. They w o rk upon us because w e accept the w a y Hals saw his s itte rs . W e do n o t accept this innocently. W e accept it in so fa r as it corresponds to our ow n observation o f people, gestures, faces, in s titu tio n s . This is possible because w e still live in a society o f com parable social relations and moral values. And it is precisely this w hich gives th e paintings th e ir psychological and social urgency. It is this - not the painter's skill as a 's e d u c e r' - w hich convinces us th a t w e can k n o w the people portrayed. The author continues:
In the case of some critics the seduction has been a total success. It has, for example, been asserted that the Regent in the tipped slouch hat, which hardly covers any of his long, lank hair, and whose curiously set eyes do not focus, was shown in a drunken state. 14

This, he suggests, is a libel. He argues th a t it w as a fashion a t th a t tim e to w e ar hats on the side o f the head. He cites medical opinion to prove th a t the Regent's expression could w e ll be the result o f a facial paralysis. He insists th a t th e painting w o uld have been unacceptable to the Regents if one o f them had been portrayed drunk. One m ight go on discussing each o f these points fo r pages. (M e n in seventeenth-century Holland w o re th e ir hats on the side o f th e ir heads in order to be tho u g ht o f as adventurous and pleasure-loving. Heavy drinking w a s an approved practice. Etcetera.) But such a discussion w o u ld tak e us even fa rth e r aw ay fro m th e only confron tatio n w h ich m atters and w h ich the author is determ ined to evade. In th is confro n tatio n the Regents and Regentesses stare a t Hals, a d e s titu te old painter w h o has lost his rep utatio n and lives o ff public c harity; he examines them through th e eyes o f a pauper w h o m ust nevertheless try to be objective, i.e., m ust try to surm ount th e w ay he sees as a pauper. T his is the drama o f these paintings. A drama o f an 'u n fo rg e tta b le c o n tra s t'. M y s tific a tio n has little to do w ith the vocabulary used. M y s tific a tio n is the process o f explaining

aw ay w h a t m ight o th e rw is e be evident. Hals w as the firs t p o rtra itis t to paint the n ew characters and expressions created by capitalism . He did in p icto rial term s w h a t Balzac did tw o centuries la te r in lite ratu re. Y e t the author o f the a u th o ritativ e w o rk on these paintings sums up th e a rtis t's achievem ent by referring to
Hals's unwavering commitment to his personal vision, which enriches our consciousness of our fellow men and heightens our awe for the ever-increasing power of the mighty impulses that enabled him to give us a close view of life's vital forces.

T h at is m ystificatio n . In order to avoid m ystifying the past (w h ic h can equally w e ll s u ffe r p se u d o -M arx is t m y stifica tio n ) let us no w exam ine the p articular relation w h ich no w exists, so fa r as p icto rial images are concerned, betw een the present and the past. If w e can see the present clearly enough, w e shall ask the rig h t questions o f the past. Today w e see th e a rt o f the past as nobody saw it before. W e actually perceive it in a d iffe re n t w ay. This d ifference can be illu strated in term s o f w h a t w as th o u g h t of as perspective. The convention of perspective, w hich is unique to European a rt and w h ich w as firs t established in the early Renaissance, centres everything on the eye o f the beholder. It is like a beam fro m a lighthouse - only instead o f lig h t travelling o u tw ard s, appearances travel in. The conventions called those appearances reality. Perspective m akes the single eye the centre o f the visible w o rld . Everything converges on to the eye as to the vanishing point o f in fin ity. The visible w o rld is arranged fo r the spectator as th e universe w as once th o u g h t to be arranged fo r God. According to the convention o f perspective there is no visual reciprocity. There is no need fo r God to situ ate him self in relation to oth ers: he is him self the s itu ation . The inherent contradiction in perspective w as th a t it structured all images o f reality to address a single spectato r w h o , unlike God, could only be in one place at a tim e.

A fte r th e invention o f the camera this contradiction gradually became apparent.

I'm an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I'm in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse's mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, manoeuvring in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations. Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you.*

w ritten ' This quotation is from a n article

b y Dziga in 1923

Vertov, the revolutionary film director

S o viet

The camera isolated m om entary appearances and in so doing destroyed the idea th a t im ages w e re tim eless. Or, to put it another w ay, the camera show ed th a t the notion o f tim e passing w as inseparable fro m the experience o f th e visual (except in paintings). W h at you s aw depended upon w here you w e re w hen. W h a t you saw w as relative to your position in tim e and space. It w as no longer possible to imagine everything converging on the human eye as on the vanishing point of in fin ity. This is not to say th a t before the invention o f the camera men believed th a t everyone could see everything. But perspective organized the visual field as though th a t w e re indeed th e ideal. Every draw in g or painting th a t used perspective proposed to the spectato r th a t he w as the unique centre o f th e w o rld . The cam era - and more particularly the movie camera - dem onstrated th a t there w as no centre. The invention o f th e camera changed th e w a y men saw . The visible came to mean som ething d iffe re n t to them . This w a s im m ediately reflected in painting. For the Im pressionists the visible no longer presented its e lf to man in order to be seen. On the contrary, the visible, in continual flu x, became fug itive. For the Cubists the visible w as no longer w h a t confronted the single eye, but th e to ta lity o f possible view s taken fro m points all round the object (or person) being depicted.


The invention o f th e camera also changed the w ay in w hich men saw paintings painted long before the camera w as invented. O riginally paintings w ere an integral part o f the building fo r w hich they w e re designed. Som etim es in an early Renaissance church or chapel one has the feeling th a t the images on the w a ll are records o f the building's in terio r life, th a t to g e th e r they make up the building's mem ory - so much are they p art o f th e p articu larity o f the building.

The uniqueness of every painting w as once part of the uniqueness o f the place w h e re it resided. Som etim es the painting w a s transportable. But it could never be seen in tw o places a t the same tim e. W hen th e camera reproduces a painting, it destroys the uniqueness o f its image. As a result its meaning changes. Or, more exactly, its meaning m ultiplies and frag m en ts into many meanings. This is vividly illu strated by w h a t happens w hen a painting is show n on a television screen. The painting enters each v iew er's house. There it is surrounded by his w allpaper, his fu rn itu re , his m em entoes. It enters the atm osphere o f his

fam ily. It becomes th e ir talk in g point. It lends its meaning to th e ir meaning. A t the same tim e it enters a m illion o ther houses and, in each o f them , is seen in a d iffe re n t context. Because o f the camera, the painting now travels to the spectator rather than the spectator to the painting. In its travels, its meaning is diversified.

One m ight argue th a t all reproductions m ore or less d is to rt, and th a t th e re fo re th e original painting is s till in a sense unique. Here is a reproduction o f the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci.


Having seen this reproduction, one can go to the N ational Gallery to look a t th e original and there discover w h a t the reproduction lacks. A ltern atively one can fo rg e t about the quality o f th e reproduction and sim ply be reminded, w hen one sees th e original, th a t it is a fam ous painting o f w hich som ew here one has already seen a reproduction. But in eith er case the uniqueness o f the original no w lies in it being the original of a reproduction. It is no longer w h a t its image show s th a t strike s one as unique; its firs t meaning is no longer to be found in w h a t it says, but in w h a t it is. This new status o f the original w o rk is the p erfectly rational consequence o f the new means o f reproduction. But it is a t this point th a t a process o f m y stifica tio n again enters. The meaning o f the original w o rk no longer lies in w h a t it uniquely says but in w h a t it uniquely is. H o w is its unique existence evaluated and defined in our present culture? It is defined as an object w hose value depends upon its rarity. This value is affirm e d and gauged by the price it fetches on the m arket. But because it is nevertheless 'a w o rk o f a r t ' - and a rt is tho u g h t to be greater than com m erce - its m arket price is said to be a reflectio n o f its spiritual value. Y e t the spiritual value o f an object, as d is tin c t fro m a message or an example, can only be explained in term s o f magic or religion. And since in modern society neither o f these is a living force, the a rt object, the 'w o rk o f a rt', is enveloped in an atm osphere of entirely bogus religiosity. W o rks o f a rt are discussed and presented as though they w ere holy relics: relics w hich are firs t and fo rem o st evidence o f th e ir ow n survival. The past in w h ich they originated is studied in order to prove th e ir survival genuine. They are declared a rt w hen th e ir line o f descent can be c ertified . Before the Virgin of the Rocks the visito r to the N ational Gallery w o u ld be encouraged by nearly everything he m igh t have heard and read about the painting to feel som ething like th is : ' I am in fro n t o f it. I can see it. This painting by Leonardo is unlike any o th er in the w o rld . The N ational Gallery has the real one. If I look at this painting hard enough, I should som ehow be able to feel its auth en ticity. The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da V inci: it is auth en tic and therefo re it is b eau tifu l.'

To dism iss such feelings as naive w o u ld be quite w ro ng . They accord perfectly w ith the sophisticated culture of a rt experts fo r w h o m the N ational Gallery catalogue is w ritte n . The entry on the Virgin of the Rocks is one o f the longest entries. It consists o f fourteen closely printed pages. They do not deal w ith the meaning o f the image. They deal w ith w h o com m issioned the painting, legal squabbles, w h o ow ned it, its likely date, the fam ilies o f its o w ners. Behind this in fo rm atio n lie years o f research. The aim o f the research is to prove beyond any shadow of doubt th a t the painting is a genuine Leonardo. The secondary aim is to prove th a t an alm o st identical painting in th e Louvre is a replica o f the N ational Gallery version.

French a rt historians try to prove the opposite.


The N ational Gallery sells more reproductions of Leonardo's cartoon o f The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist than any o th e r picture in th e ir collection. A fe w years ago it w as kno w n only to scholars. It became fam ous because an Am erican w a n te d to buy it fo r tw o and a half m illion pounds. N o w it hangs in a room by itse lf. The room is like a chapel. The d raw ing is behind b u llet-p ro o f perspex. It has acquired a new kind o f im pressiveness. N ot because o f w h a t it show s - not because o f th e meaning o f its image. It has become im pressive, m ysterious, because o f its m arke t value. The bogus religiosity w hich no w surrounds original w o rk s o f art, and w hich is u ltim ately dependent upon th e ir m arket value, has become the sub stitu te fo r w h a t paintings lost w hen the camera macfe them reproducible. Its fun ction is nostalgic. It is th e final em pty claim fo r the continuing values o f an oligarchic, undem ocratic culture. If the image is no longer unique and exclusive, the a rt object, the thing, m ust be made m ysteriously so. I I d i(jL f~ )

The m ajority o f the population do not v isit a rt m useums. The fo llo w in g table show s h o w closely an in tere st in a rt is related to privileged education.
N a tio n al p ro p o rtio n o f a rt m useum v is ito rs according to level o f ed u catio n : Percentage o f each educational categ o ry w h o v is it a r t m useum s Greece With no educational qualification Only primary education Poland France Holland Greece Only secondary education Further and higher education Poland France Holland
















Source: Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel, L ’Am our de I'Art, Editions de Minuit, Paris 1969, Appendix 5, table 4

The m ajo rity ta k e it as axiom atic th a t th e m useums are full o f holy relics w hich refer to a m ystery w h ich excludes th e m : th e m ystery o f unaccountable w e alth . Or, to p u t th is another w a y, they believe th a t original m asterpieces belong to th e preserve (both m aterially and s piritually) o f the rich. A nother table indicates w h a t the idea o f an a rt gallery suggests to each social class.
O f th e places listed b e lo w w h ic h does a m useum rem ind you o f m ost 7 Manual workers % Church Library Lecture hall Department store or entrance hall in public building Church and library Church and lecture hall Library and lecture hall None of these No reply 66 9

Skilled and white collar workers % 45 34 4 7 2 2

Professional and upper managerial % 30.5 28 4.5 2 4.5

9 4

4 8 100 ( n - 53)

2 4 100 (n = 98)

2 19.5 9 100 (n - 99)

Source: as above, appendix 4. table 8

In the age o f p ictorial reproduction th e meaning o f paintings is no longer attached to th e m ; th e ir meaning becomes tra n s m itta b le : th a t is to say it becomes in fo rm atio n o f a sort, and, like all in fo rm atio n , it is eith er p u t to use or ignored; in fo rm ation carries no special au th o rity w ith in itself. W hen a painting is put to use, its meaning is eith er m odified or to ta lly changed. One should be quite clear about w h a t this involves. It is not a question o f reproduction failin g to

reproduce certain aspects o f an im age fa ith fu lly ; it is a question o f reproduction m aking it possible, even inevitable, th a t an image w ill be used fo r many d iffe re n t purposes and th a t th e reproduced image, unlike an original w o rk , can lend its e lf to them all. Let us exam ine some o f the w ays in w h ich the reproduced image lends its e lf to such usage.
o M - ^ u iu - j j in u y au S'dVlAJ C1N j V S fl M i ,A -

Reproduction isolates a detail o f a painting fro m the w h o le. The detail is tran sfo rm ed . An allegorical fig u re becomes a p o rtra it o f a girl.


W hen a painting is reproduced by a film camera it inevitably becomes m aterial fo r th e film -m a k e r's argum ent. A film w h ich reproduces images o f a painting leads the spectato r, through the painting, to the film -m a k e r's ow n conclusions. The painting lends au th o rity to the film -m a k e r.

Th is is because a film unfolds in tim e and a painting does not.

In a painting all its elem ents are there to be seen sim ultaneously. The spectator may need tim e to examine each elem ent o f th e painting b ut w henever he reaches a conclusion, th e sim u ltan eity o f the w h o le painting is there to reverse or q ualify his conclusion. The painting m aintains its ow n a uth o rity.


Paintings are often reproduced w ith w o rd s around them .

This is a landscape o f a cornfield w ith birds flying out o f it. Look at it fo r a m om ent. Then turn th e page.




is ih c

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It is hard to define exactly ho w the w o rd s have changed the image but undoubtedly they have. The image now illu strates the sentence. In th is essay each image reproduced has become p art o f an argum ent w h ich has little or nothing to do w ith the painting's original independent meaning. The w o rd s have quoted the paintings to confirm the ir ow n verbal auth o rity. (The essays w ith o u t w ord s in this book may m ake th a t distin ctio n clearer.) Reproduced paintings, like all in fo rm atio n , have to hold th e ir ow n against all the other in fo rm atio n being continually tran s m itte d .


Consequently a reproduction, as w e ll as m aking its ow n references to the image o f its original, becomes itse lf the reference po int fo r other images. The meaning o f an image is changed according to w h a t one sees im m ediately beside it or w h a t comes im m ediately a fte r it. Such au th o rity as it retains, is distribu ted over the w h o le con text in w hich

If women knew then... what they know now.

Because w o rk s o f a rt are reproducible, they can, theoretically, be used by anybody. Y e t m ostly - in a rt books, magazines, film s or w ith in g ilt fram es in living-room s reproductions are s till used to bolster the illusion th a t nothing has changed, th a t art, w ith its unique undim inished authority, ju s tifie s m ost o th er form s o f auth o rity, th a t a rt makes inequality seem noble and hierarchies seem thrilling . For example, the w h ole concept o f the N ational C ultural H eritage exploits the au th o rity o f a rt to g lo rify th e present social system and its p rio rities.

The means o f reproduction are used politically and com m ercially to disguise or deny w h a t th e ir existence m akes possible. But som etim es individuals use them d iffe re ntly .

A dults and children som etim es have boards in th e ir bedrooms or living-room s on w hich they pin pieces of paper: le tte rs, snapshots, reproductions o f paintings, new spaivtr cuttin g s, original d raw ings, postcards. On each board all the images belong to the same language and all are more or less equal w ith in it, because they have been chosen in a highly personal w ay to m atch and express the experience o f the room 's inhabitant. Logically, these boards should replace museums. W h a t are w e saying by th a t? Let us firs t be sure about w h a t w e are not saying. W e are not saying th a t there is nothing le ft to experience before original w o rk s of a rt except a sense o f aw e because they have survived. The w ay original w o rk s o f a rt are usually approached - through museum catalogues, guides, hired cassettes, etc. - is not the only w ay they m ight be approached. W hen th e a rt o f the past ceases to be view ed nostalgically, the w o rk s w ill cease to be holy relics - although they w ill never re-becom e w h a t they w e re before the age of reproduction. W e are not saying original w o rk s o f a rt are now useless.

Original paintings are silent and s till in a sense th a t in fo rm atio n never is. Even a reproduction hung on a w a ll is not com parable in this respect fo r in the original th e silence and stillness perm eate the actual m aterial, th e paint, in w hich one fo llo w s the traces o f the painter's im m ediate gestures. This has the e ffe c t o f closing the distance in tim e betw een the painting o f the picture and one's ow n act o f looking a t it. In this special sense all paintings are contem porary. Hence the im m ediacy o f th e ir testim o ny. T h eir historical m om ent is literally there before our eyes. Cezanne made a sim ilar observation fro m th e painter's point o f view . 'A m inute in the w o rld 's life p asses! To paint it in its reality, and fo rg e t everything fo r t h a t ! T o become th a t m inute, to be the sensitive plate . . . give the image of w h a t w e see, fo rg e ttin g everything th a t has appeared before our tim e . . .' W h a t w e make o f th a t painted m om ent w hen it is before our eyes depends upon w h a t w e expect o f art, and th a t in turn depends today upon ho w w e have already experienced the meaning o f paintings through reproductions.

Nor are w e saying th a t all a rt can be understood spontaneously. W e are not claim ing th a t to cut out a magazine reproduction o f an archaic Greek head, because it is reminiscent o f some personal experience, and to pin it on to a board beside other d isparate images, is to com e to term s w ith the fu ll meaning o f th a t head. The idea o f innocence faces tw o w ays. By refusi lg to enter a conspiracy, one remains innocent o f th a t conspiracy. But to remain innocent may also be to remain ignorant. The issue is not b etw een innocence and know ledge (or betw een the natural and the c u ltu ral) but betw een a to ta l approach to a rt w hich a tte m p ts to relate it to every aspect o f experience and the esoteric approach o f a fe w specialized experts w h o are the clerks o f the nostalgia o f a ruling class in decline. (In decline, not before th e p ro le ta ria t, but before th e n ew p o w er o f the corporation and the s ta te .) The real question is: to w hom does the meaning o f the a rt o f the past properly belong? To those w h o can apply it to th e ir ow n lives, or to a cultural hierarchy o f relic specialists? The visual arts have alw ays existed w ith in a certain preserve; originally this preserve w as magical or sacred. But it w as also physical: it w as the place, the cave, the building, in w h ich , or fo r w hich, the w o rk w as made. The experience o f a rt, w h ich a t firs t w as the experience o f ritual, w as set apart fro m the rest o f life - precisely in order to be able to exercise p o w er over it. Later the preserve o f a rt became a social one. It entered the culture o f the ruling class, w h ils t physically it w as set apart and isolated in th e ir palaces and houses. During all this history the a u th o rity o f a rt w as inseparable fro m th e particular a uth ority o f th e preserve. W h a t the modern means o f reproduction have done is to destroy th e auth o rity o f a rt and to remove it - or, rather, to remove its images w hich they reproduce - fro m any preserve. For the firs t tim e ever, images o f a rt have become ephem eral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free. They surround us in the same w ay as a language surrounds us. They have entered the m ainstream o f life over w h ich they no longer, in them selves, have pow er. Y e t very fe w people are aw are o f w h a t has happened because the means o f reproduction are used nearly

all the tim e to prom ote the illusion th a t nothing has changed except th a t the masses, thanks to reproductions, can now begin to appreciate a rt as the cultured m inority once did. Understandably, the masses remain uninterested and sceptical. If the new language of images w ere used differently, it w ould, through its use, confer a new kind o f power. W ith in it w e could begin to define our experiences more precisely in areas w h ere w o rd s are inadequate. (Seeing comes before w o rd s.) N ot only personal experience, but also the essential historical experience o f our relation to th e past: th a t is to say the experience o f seeking to give meaning to our lives, of trying to understand the history o f w hich w e can become the active agents. The a rt o f the past no longer exists as it once did. Its auth ority is lost. In its place there is a language o f images. W hat m atters no w is w h o uses th a t language fo r w h a t purpose. This touches upon questions o f copyright fo r reproduction, the ow nership o f a rt presses and publishers, the total policy o f public a rt galleries and museums. As usually presented, these are n arro w professional m atters. One o f the aims o f this essay has been to show th a t w h a t is really at stake is much larger. A people or a class w hich is cut o ff fro m its ow n past is fa r less free to choose and to act as a people or class than one th a t has been able to situ ate its e lf in history. This is w h y - and this is the only reason w hy - th e entire a rt o f the past has n ow become a political issue.

M an y o f the ideas in the preceding essay have been taken froi another, w ritte n over fo rty years ago by the German c ritic ant philosopher W a lte r Benjamin.

His essay w as entitled The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. This essay is available in English in a collection called Illuminations (Cape, London 1970).




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According to usage and conventions w hich are a t last being questioned b u t have by no means been overcom e, the social presence o f a w om an is d iffe re n t in kind fro m th a t o f a man. A m an's presence is dependent upon the prom ise o f pow er w h ich he em bodies. I f the prom ise is large and credible his presence is strikin g . If it is small or incredible, he is found to have little presence. The prom ised p o w er may be m oral, physical, tem p eram ental, econom ic, social, sexual - b ut its object is alw ays e xterio r to th e man. A m an's presence

suggests w h a t he is capable o f doing to you or fo r you. His presence may be fab ricated, in the sense th a t he pretends to b capable o f w h a t he is not. But the pretence is alw ays tow ard s a p o w er w hich he exercises on others. By con trast, a w o m an 's presence expresses her ow n a ttitu d e to herself, and defines w h a t can and cannot be done to her. Her presence is m anifest in her gestures, voice, opinions, expressions, clothes, chosen surroundings, tas te indeed there is nothing she can do w hich does not contribute to her presence. Presence fo r a w om an is so in trin sic to her person th a t men tend to thin k o f it as an alm ost physical em anation, a kind o f heat or smell or aura. To be born a w om an has been to be born, w ith in an a llo tted and confined space, into the keeping o f men. The social presence o f w om en has developed as a result o f th e ir ingenuity in living under such tutelag e w ith in such a lim ited space. But this has been a t the cost o f a w o m an 's self being s plit into tw o . A w om an m ust continually w a tc h herself. She is alm o st continually accom panied by her ow n image o f herself. W h ils t she is w alkin g across a room or w h ils t she is w eeping a t th e death o f her fath er, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself w alkin g or w eeping. From earliest childhoo she has been tau g h t and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed w ith in her as the tw o c on stitu ent yet alw ays d istin ct elem ents o f her id entity as a w om an. She has to survey everything she is and everythin she does because h o w she appears to others, and u ltim a te ly how she appears to men, is o f crucial im portance fo r w h a t is norm ally thou g h t o f as the success o f her life. Her ow n sense o f being in herself is supplanted by a sense o f being appreciated as herself by another. M en survey w om en before trea tin g them . Consequently ho w a w om an appears to a man can determ ine how she w ill be treated . To acquire some control over this process, w om en m ust contain it and in teriorize it. T h a t part o1 a w om an's self w h ich is the surveyor tre a ts the part w hich is the surveyed so as to dem onstrate to others h o w her w hole self w ou ld like to be treated . And this exem plary tre a tm e n t of herself by herself c on stitu tes her presence. Every w om an's

presence regulates w h a t is and is not 'p e rm is s ib le ' w ith in her presence. Every one o f her actions - w h atever its d irect purpose or m otivation - is also read as an indication o f how she w ould like to be treated . If a w om an th ro w s a glass on the floor, this is an exam ple o f h o w she tre a ts her ow n em otion o f anger and so o f ho w she w o u ld w ish it to be trea te d by others. If a man does the same, his action is only read as an expression o f his anger. If a w om an m akes a good joke this is an example o f h o w she tre a ts the jo k e r in herself and accordingly o f h o w she as a jo k er-w o m a n w ould like to be treated by others. Only a man can m ake a good jo ke fo r its ow n sake. One m ight sim plify this by saying: men act and women appear. M en look a t w om en. W om en w a tc h them selves being looked at. This determ ines not only m ost relations between men and w om en b ut also the relation o f w om en to themselves. The surveyor o f w om an in herself is m ale: the surveyed fem ale. Thus she turns herself into an object - and most particularly an object o f vision: a sight.

In one category o f European oil painting w om en w ere the principal, ever-recurring subject. T h at category is the nude. In the nudes o f European painting w e can discover some o f the c riteria and conventions by w h ich w om en have been seen and judged as sights. The firs t nudes in the trad itio n depicted Adam and Eve. It is w o rth referring to th e story as told in Genesis:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew tharthey were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons. . . . And the 47

Lord God called unto the man and said unto him, 'Where are thou?' And he said, 'I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. . . . Unto the woman God said, 'I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee'.

W h a t is s trikin g about this story? They becam e aw are o f being naked because, as a result o f eating th e apple, each s aw the o th er d iffe re n tly . Nakedness w as created in the mind o f the beholder. The second s triking fa c t is th a t the w om an is blamed and is punished by being made subservient to the man In relation to the w om an, the man becomes the agent o f God. In the medieval trad itio n the story w as often illustrated, scene fo llo w in g scene, as in a strip cartoon.


During the Renaissance the narrative sequence disappeared, and the single m om ent depicted became the m om ent o f shame. The couple w e ar fig-leaves or make a modest gesture w ith th e ir hands. But now th e ir shame is not so much in relation to one another as to the spectator.

Later the shame becomes a kind of display.

W hen the trad itio n o f painting became more secular, other them es also offered the opportunity o f painting nudes. But in them all there remains the im plication th a t the subject (a w o m an) is aw are o f being seen by a spectator.

She is not naked as she is. She is naked as the spectator sees her. O ften - as w ith the favo u rite subject o f Susannah and the Elders — this is the actual them e o f the picture. W e join the Elders to spy on Susannah taking her bath. She looks back at us looking at her.

In another version o f the subject by T in to re tto , Susannah is looking at herself in a m irror. Thus she joins the spectators o f herself.


The m irror w as often used as a symbol o f the vanity o f w om an. The m oralizing, how ever, w as m ostly hypocritical.

You painted a naked w om an because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a m irro r in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus m orally condemning the w om an w hose nakedness you had depicted fo r your ow n pleasure. The real fun ctio n o f the m irror w as o th erw ise. It w as to m ake the w om an connive in treatin g herself as, firs t and fo rem o st, a sight. The Judgem ent o f Paris w as another them e w ith the same in w ritte n idea of a man or men looking at naked w om en.


But a fu rth e r elem ent is no w added. The elem ent o f judgem ent. Paris aw ards the apple to the wom an he finds m ost beau tifu l. Thus Beauty becomes com petitive. (Today The Jud gem en t of Paris has become the Beauty C ontest.) Those w h o are not judged beautiful are not beautiful . Those w h o are, are given the prize.

The prize is to be ow ned by a judge - th a t is to say to be available fo r him. Charles the Second com m issioned a secret painting fro m Lely. It is a highly typical image o f the trad itio n . N om inally it m ight be a Venus and Cupid. In fa c t it is a p o rtra it of one of the King's m istresses, Nell Gwynne. It shows her passively looking at the spectator staring at her naked.

This nakedness is not, how ever, an expression of her ow n feelin g s; it is a sign o f her submission to the ow n er's feelings or demands. (The ow n er o f both w om an and painting.) The painting, w hen the King showed it to others, dem onstrated this submission and his guests envied him.

It is w o rth noticing th a t in other non-European trad itio n s - in Indian art, Persian art, A frican art, PreColumbian art - nakedness is never supine in this w ay. And if, in these trad itio n s, the them e of a w o rk is sexual a ttrac tio n , it is likely to show active sexual love as betw een tw o people, the w om an as active as the man, the actions of each absorbing the other.

W e can n o w begin to see the difference betw een nakedness and nudity in the European trad itio n . In his book on The Nude Kenneth C lark m aintains th a t to be naked is sim ply to be w ith o u t clothes, w hereas the nude is a form of art. According to him, a nude is not the startin g point of a painting, but a w ay o f seeing w hich the painting achieves. To some degree, this is tru e - although the w ay o f seeing 'a n ude' is not necessarily confined to a rt: there are also nude photographs, nude poses, nude gestures. W h a t is tru e is th a t the nude is alw ays conventionalized - and the au th o rity fo r its conventions derives fro m a certain trad itio n o f art.

W h a t do these conventions mean ? W h at does a nude signify? It is not s u fficien t to answ er these questions merely in term s o f the a rt-fo rm , fo r it is quite clear th a t the nude also relates to lived sexuality.

To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized fo r oneself. A naked body has to be seen as an object in order to become a nude. (The sight of it as an object stim ulates the use o f it as an object.) Nakedness reveals itself. N udity is placed on display. To be naked is to be w ith o u t disguise. To be on display is to have the surface o f one's ow n skin, the hairs of one's own body, turned into a disguise w hich, in th a t situation , can never be discarded. The nude is condemned to never being naked. N udity is a form o f dress. In the average European oil painting o f the nude the principal p rotagonist is never painted. He is the spectator in fro n t o f the picture and he is presumed to be a man. Everything is addressed to him. Everything m ust appear to be the result o f his being there. It is fo r him th a t the figures have assumed th e ir nudity. But he, by defin itio n , is a stranger w ith his clothes still on. Consider the Allegory of Time and Love by Bronzino.

The com plicated sym bolism w hich lies behind th is painting need not concern us now because it does not a ffe c t its sexual appeal —a t the firs t degree. Before it is anything else, this is a painting o f sexual provocation.

The painting w as sent as a present fro m the Grand Duke o f Florence to the King o f France. The boy kneeling on the cushion and kissing the w om an is Cupid. She is Venus. But the w a y her body is arranged has nothing to do w ith th e ir kissing. Her body is arranged in the w ay it is, to display it to the man looking a t the picture. This picture is made to appeal to his sexuality. It has nothing to do w ith her sexuality. (H ere and in the European trad itio n generally, the convention o f not painting the hair on a w o m an 's body helps to w ard s the same end. Hair is associated w ith sexual pow er, w ith passion. The w o m an 's sexual passion needs to be minim ized so th a t the spectator may feel th a t he has the monopoly o f such passion.) W om en are there to feed an appetite, not to have any o f th e ir ow n. Com pare the expressions of these tw o w o m e n :

one the model fo r a fam ous painting by Ingres and the other a model fo r a photograph in a girlie magazine. Is not the expression rem arkably sim ilar in each case? It is the expression o f a w om an responding w ith calculated charm to the man w hom she imagines looking at her —although she doesn't kn o w him. She is o fferin g up her fem ininity as the surveyed.


It is tru e th a t som etim es a painting includes a male lover.

But the w om an's a tten tio n is very rarely directed to w ard s him. O ften she looks aw ay fro m him or she looks out o f the picture to w ard s the one w ho considers him self her true lover - the spectato r-o w n er. There w as a special category o f private pornographic paintings (especially in the eighteenth century) in w hich couples making love make an appearance. But even in fro n t o f these it is clear th a t the s p e cta to r-o w n er w ill in fantasy oust the other man, or else id entify w ith him. By contrast the image o f the couple in non-European trad itio n s provokes the notion o f many couples m aking love. 'W e all have a thousand hands, a thousand fe e t and w ill never go alone.' A lm ost all post-Renaissance European sexual imagery is fro n ta l —either literally or m etaphorically —because the sexual pro tago n ist is the s p e cta to r-o w n er looking a t it.

The absurdity o f this male fla tte ry reached its peak in the public academic a rt o f the nineteenth century. < /)

M en o f s tate, o f business, discussed under paintings like this. W hen one o f them fe lt he had been o u tw itte d , he looked up fo r consolation. W h a t he saw reminded him th a t he w as a man.

There are a fe w exceptional nudes in the European trad itio n of oil painting to w hich very little o f w h a t has been said above applies. Indeed they are no longer nudes they break the norms o f the a rt-fo rm ; they are paintings o f loved w om en, more or less naked. Among the hundreds of thousands of nudes w hich make up the trad itio n there are perhaps a hundred o f these exceptions. In each case the p ainter's personal vision of the particular w om en he is painting is so strong th a t it makes no allow ance fo r the spectator. The p ainter's vision binds the w om an to him so th a t they become as inseparable as couples in stone. The spectator

can w itn ess th e ir relationship - but he can do no m ore: he is forced to recognize him self as the outsider he is. He cannot deceive him self into believing th a t she is naked fo r him. He cannot turn her into a nude. The w ay the painter has painted her includes her w ill and her intentions in the very stru ctu re of the image, in the very expression o f her body and her face.

The typical and the exceptional in the trad itio n can be defined by the simple naked/nude antinom y, but the problem of painting nakedness is not as sim ple as it m ight at firs t appear.

W h a t is the sexual function o f nakedness in reality? Clothes encum ber con tact and m ovem ent. But it w ould seem th a t nakedness has a positive visual value in its ow n rig h t: w e w a n t to see the other naked: the o ther delivers to us the sight o f them selves and w e seize upon it - som etim es quite regardless o f w h e th e r it is fo r the firs t tim e or the hundredth. W h a t does this sight o f the other mean to us, how does it, at th a t instant o f to ta l disclosure, a ffe c t our desire?

T h eir nakedness acts as a confirm ation and provokes a very strong sense o f relief. She is a w om an like any o th er: or he is a man like any o th e r: w e are overw helm ed by the m arvellous sim p licity o f the fam ilia r sexual mechanism. W e did not, o f course, consciously expect th is to be o th e rw is e : unconscious homosexual desires (or unconscious heterosexual desires if the couple concerned are hom osexual) may have led each to half expect som ething d iffe re n t. But the 'r e lie f ' can be explained w ith o u t recourse to the unconscious. W e did not expect them to be o th erw ise, but the urgency and com plexity o f our feelings bred a sense o f uniqueness w hich the sight o f the other, as she is or as he is, now dispels. They are more like the rest of their sex than they are d iffe re n t. In th is revelatibn lies the w arm and friend ly - as opposed to cold and impersonal - anonym ity o f nakedness. One could express th is d iffe re n tly : at the m om ent o f nakedness firs t perceived, an elem ent o f banality enters: an elem ent th a t exists only because w e need it. Up to th a t in stan t the o ther w as more or less m ysterious. E tiq u ettes o f m odesty are not m erely puritan or sen tim en tal: it is reasonable to recognize a loss o f m ystery. And the explanation of this loss o f m ystery may be largely visual. The focus o f perception s h ifts fro m eyes, m outh, shoulders, hands - all o f w h ich are capable o f such subtleties o f expression th a t the personality expressed by th em is m anifold - it shifts fro m these to the sexual parts, w hose form atio n suggests an u tte rly com pelling but single process. The o ther is reduced or elevated —w hichever you p refer - to th e ir prim ary sexual category: male or fem ale. Our re lie f is the relief o f finding an unquestionable reality to w hose d irect demands our earlier highly complex awareness m ust now yield. W e need the banality w hich w e find in the firs t in stant o f disclosure because it grounds us in reality. But it does more than th a t. This reality, by prom ising the fam iliar, proverbial m echanism o f sex, o ffe rs, a t the same tim e, the possibility o f the shared subjectivity o f sex. The loss o f m ystery occurs sim ultaneously w ith the o ffe rin g o f the means fo r creating a shared m ystery. The sequence is : subjective - objective - subjective to the p o w er of tw o .

W e can now understand the d iffic u lty of creating a sta tic image of sexual nakedness. In lived sexual experience nakedness is a process rather than a state. If one m om ent of th a t process is isolated, its image w ill seem banal and its banality, instead of serving as a bridge betw een tw o intense im aginative states, w ill be chilling. This is one reason w hy expressive photographs o f the naked are even rarer than paintings. The easy solution fo r the photographer is to turn the fig ure into a nude w hich, by generalizing both sight and view er and m aking sexuality unspecific, turns desire into fantasy. Let us examine an exceptional painted image o f nakedness. It is a painting by Rubens o f his young second w ife w hom he married w hen he him self was relatively old. i m r~ m
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W e see her in the act of turning, her fu r about to slip o ff her shoulders. Clearly she w ill not remain as she is fo r more than a second. In a superficial sense her image is as

instantaneous as a photograph's. But, in a more profound sense, the painting 'contains' tim e and its experience. It is easy to im agine th a t a m om ent ago before she pulled the fu r round her shoulders, she w as entirely naked. The consecutive stages up to and aw ay fro m the m om ent o f to ta l disclosure have been transcended. She can belong to any or all o f them sim ultaneously. Her body confronts us, not as an im m ediate sight, but as experience - the p ainter's experience. W hy ? There are superficial anecdotal reasons: her dishevelled hair, the expression o f her eyes directed to w a rd s him, the tenderness w ith w h ich the exaggerated suscep tib ility o f her skin has been painted. But the profound reason is a form al one. Her appearance has been literally re-cast by the p ainter's subjectivity. Beneath th e fu r th a t she holds across herself, the upper p art o f her body and her legs can never m eet. There is a displacem ent sidew ays o f about nine inches: her thighs, in order to join on to her hips, are a t least nine inches to o fa r to th e le ft. Rubens probably did not plan th is: the spectator may not consciously notice it. In its e lf it is unim portant. W h a t m atters is w h a t it perm its. It perm its the body to become im possibly dynam ic. Its coherence is no longer w ith in its e lf but w ith in the experience o f the painter. M ore precisely, it p erm its th e upper and lo w e r halves o f the body to ro tate separately, and in opposite directions, round th e sexual centre w hich is hidden: th e torso turnin g to the right, the legs to the le ft. A t the same tim e this hidden sexual centre is connected by means o f the dark fu r coat to all the surrounding darkness in the picture, so th a t she is turning both around and w ith in the dark w h ich has been made a m etaphor fo r her sex. A p art from th e necessity o f transcending the single in s ta n t and o f a dm ittin g subjectivity, there is, as w e have seen, one fu rth e r elem ent w h ich is essential fo r any great sexual im age o f the naked. This is the elem ent o f banality w hich m ust be undisguised but not chilling. It is th is w hich distinguishes betw een voyeur and lover. Here such banality is to be found in Rubens's com pulsive painting o f the fa t softness o f H6ldne Fourm ent's flesh w hich continually breaks every ideal convention o f fo rm and (to him ) continually o ffe rs the prom ise o f her extraordinary particu larity.

The nude in European oil painting is usually presented as an adm irable expression o f the European hum anist s p irit. This spirit w as inseparable fro m individualism . And w ith o u t the developm ent o f a highly conscious individualism the exceptions to the trad itio n (extrem ely personal images o f the naked), w ould never have been painted. Y e t the trad itio n contained a contradiction w hich it could not its e lf resolve. A fe w individual a rtists in tuitively recognized this and resolved the contradiction in th e ir ow n term s, but th e ir solutions could never enter the tra d itio n 's cultural term s. The contradiction can be stated simply. On the one hand the individualism o f the a rtis t, the thin ker, the patron, the o w n er: on the o ther hand, the person w h o is the object o f th e ir activities - the w om an - treated as a thing or an abstraction.


D iirer believed th a t the ideal nude ought to be constructed by takin g the face o f one body, the breasts of another, the legs o f a th ird , the shoulders o f a fo u rth , the hands o f a fifth - and so on.

The result w ould g lorify M an. But the exercise presumed a rem arkable indifference to w h o any one person really w as.

In the a rt-fo rm o f the European nude the painters and s p e cta to r-o w n ers w ere usually men and the persons treated as objects, usually w om en. This unequal relationship is so deeply embedded in our culture th a t it still structures the consciousness o f many w om en. They do to them selves w h a t men do to them . They survey, like men, th e ir ow n fem in in ity . In modern a rt the category o f the nude has become less im p o rtan t. A rtists them selves began to question it. In this, as in many other respects, M an et represented a turnin g point. If one compares his Olympia w ith T itian 's original, one sees a w om an, cast in the trad itio n al role, beginning to question th a t role, som ew h at defiantly.

The ideal w as broken. But there w as little to replace it except the 're a lis m ' o f the p ro stitu te - w h o became the quintessential w om an of early avant-garde tw e n tie th century painting. (Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Rouault, German Expressionism, etc.) In academ ic painting the trad itio n continued.

Today the a ttitu d e s and values w hich inform ed th a t tra d itio n are expressed through o ther more w idely diffu sed media - advertising, journalism , television.

But the essential w ay o f seeing w om en, the essential use to w hich th e ir images are put, has not changed. W om en are depicted in a quite d iffe re n t w ay fro m men - not because the fem inine is d iffe re n t fro m the masculine - but because the 'ideal' spectator is alw ays assumed to be male and the image o f the w om an is designed to fla tte r him. If you have any doubt th a t this is so, make the fo llo w in g experim ent. Choose fro m th is book an image o f a trad itio n al nude. T ransform the w om an into a man. Either in your m ind's eye or by d raw ing on the reproduction. Then notice the violence w hich th a t tran s fo rm a tio n does. N o t to the image, but to the assum ptions o f a likely view er.







BREUGHEL 1525-1569


MANET 1832-1883










Oil paintings o fte n depict things. Things w hich in reality are buyable. To have a thing painted and put on a canvas is not unlike buying it and p utting it in your house. If you buy a painting you buy also the look o f the thing it represents.

This analogy betw een possessing and the w ay of seeing w hich is incorporated in oil painting, is a fa c to r usually 'Snored by a rt experts and historians. S ignificantly enough it ,s an anthropologist w ho has come closest to recognizing it.

Levi-Strauss w rite s *:
It is this avid and ambitious desire to take possession of the object for the benefit of the owner or even of the spectator which seems to me to constitute one of the outstandingly original features of the art of Western civilization.

If this is tru e - though the historical span of Levi-Strauss's generalization may be too large - th e tendency reached its peak during the period o f the trad itio n al oil painting.

The term oil painting refers to more than a technique. It defines an a rt fo rm . The technique o f mixing pigm ents w ith oil had existed since the ancient w o rld . But the oil painting as an a rt fo rm w as not born until there w as a need to develop and p erfect th is technique (w h ich soon involved using canvas instead o f w ooden panels) in order to express a p articular v iew o f life fo r w hich the techniques o f tem pera or fresco w e re inadequate. W hen oil paint w as fir s t used - a t the beginning o f the fifte e n th century in N orthern Europe - fo r painting pictures o f a new character, this character w as som ew h at inhibited by the survival o f various m edieval a rtis tic conventions. The oil painting did not fu lly establish its ow n norm s, its ow n w ay o f seeing, until the sixteenth century. Nor can the end o f the period o f the oil painting be dated exactly. Oil paintings are still being painted today. Y e t the basis o f its trad itio n al w ay o f seeing w as underm ined by Im pressionism and o verth ro w n by Cubism. A t about the same tim e the photograph to o k th e place o f the oil painting as the principal source o f visual imagery. For these reasons the period o f th e trad itio n al oil painting may be roughly set as betw een 1500 and 1900. The tra d itio n , how ever, still form s many o f our cultural assum ptions. It defines w h a t w e mean by pictorial likeness. Its norms still a ffe c t the w ay w e see such subjects as landscape, w om en, food, dignitaries, m ythology. It supplies us w ith our archetypes o f 'a rtis tic geniu s'. And th e history o f the tra d itio n , as it is usually tau g h t, teaches us th a t a rt prospers if enough individuals in society have a love o f art. W h at is a love o f a rt ?

* Conversations



C harbonnier, Cape

E ditions

Let us consider a painting w hich belongs to the tradition w hose subject is an art lover.

W h at does it show ? The sort o f man in the seventeenth century fo r w hom painters painted th e ir paintings.

W h at are these paintings? Before they are anything else, they are them selves objects w hich can be bought and ow ned. Unique objects. A patron cannot be surrounded by music or poems in the same WaY as he is surrounded by his pictures. It is as though the collector lives in a house b uilt ° f Paintings. W h a t is th e ir advantage over w alls o f stone or wood? They show him sights: sights o f w h a t he may Possess.

Again, Levi-Strauss com m ents on how a collection o f paintings can confirm the pride and am our-propre o f the collector.
For Renaissance artists, painting was perhaps an instrument of knowledge but it was also an instrument of possession, and we must not forget, when we are dealing with Renaissance painting, that it was only possible because of the immense fortunes which were being amassed in Florence and elsewhere, and that rich Italian merchants looked upon painters as agents, who allowed them to confirm their possession of all that was beautiful and desirable in the world. The pictures in a Florentine palace represented a kind of microcosm in which the proprietor, thanks to his artists, had recreated within easy reach and in as real a form as possible, all those features of the world to which he was attached.

The a rt of any period tends to serve the ideological interests o f the ruling class. If w e w ere sim ply saying th a t European a rt betw een 1500 and 1900 served the interests o f the successive ruling classes, all o f w h o m depended in d iffe re n t w ays on the new pow er o f capital, w e should not be saying anything very new . W h a t is being

proposed is a little more precise; th a t a w ay o f seeing the w orld, w hich w as ultim ately determ ined by new a ttitu d e s to property and exchange, found its visual expression in the oil painting, and could not have found it in any other visual art form .

Oil painting did to appearances w h a t capital did to social relations. It reduced everything to the equality o f objects. Everything became exchangeable because everything became a com m odity. All reality w as mechanically measured by its m ateriality. The soul, thanks to the C artesian system, w as saved in a category apart. A painting could speak to the soul — by w ay o f w h a t it referred to, but never by the w ay it envisaged. Oil painting conveyed a vision o f to ta l exteriority. Pictures im m ediately spring to mind to con tradict this assertion. W orks by Rem brandt, El Greco, Giorgione, Verm eer, Turner, etc. Y e t if one studies these w o rk s in relation to the trad itio n as a w h ole, one discovers th a t they Were exceptions of a very special kind. The trad itio n consisted o f many hundreds o f thousands o f canvases and easel pictures distributed throughout Europe. A great num ber have not survived. Of those w hich have survived only a small fractio n are seriously

trea te d today as w o rk s o f fin e a rt, and o f this frac tio n another sm all frac tio n com prises the actual pictures repeatedly reproduced and presented as th e w o rk o f 'th e m a sters'. V isito rs to a rt museums are often overw helm ed by th e num ber o f w o rk s on display, and by w h a t they ta k e to be th e ir ow n culpable inability to concentrate on m ore than a fe w o f these w o rk s. In fa c t such a reaction is alto g eth er reasonable. A rt history has to ta lly failed to come to term s w ith the problem o f the relationship betw een the outstanding w o rk and the average w o rk of the European trad itio n . The notion of Genius is not in its e lf an adequate answ er. C onsequently the confusion rem ains on the w a lls o f the galleries. T h ird -ra te w o rk s surround an outstanding w o rk w ith o u t any recognition - let alone explanation —o f w h a t fundam entally d iffe re n tia te s them . The a rt o f any culture w ill sho w a w id e d ifferen tial o f tale n t. But in no o th er culture is the d ifference betw een 'm a s te rp ie c e ' and average w o rk so large as in the trad itio n of the oil painting. In th is tra d itio n the difference is n ot ju s t a question o f skill or im agination, b ut also o f morale. The average w o rk - and increasingly a fte r the seventeenth century —w as a w o rk produced more or less cynically: th a t is to say the values it w as nom inally expressing w ere less m eaningful to the painter than the finishing o f the com m ission or the selling o f his product. Hack w o rk is not the result o f eith er clum siness or provincialism ; it is the result o f the m arket m aking m ore in sistent dem ands than the a rt. The period o f the oil painting corresponds w ith the rise of th e open a rt m arket. And it is in this contradiction betw een a rt and m arket th a t the explanations m ust be sought fo r w h a t am ounts to the c ontrast, th e antagonism existing betw een the exceptional w o rk and th e average. W h ils t acknow ledging the existence o f the exceptional w o rk s, to w hich w e shall return later, let us firs t look broadly at the trad itio n . W h a t distinguishes oil painting fro m any o ther fo rm o f painting is its special ab ility to render th e tan g ib ility , th e tex tu re , the lustre, th e solid ity o f w h a t it depicts. It defines th e real as th a t w h ich you can put your hands on.

Although its painted images are tw o -d im en sio nal, its potential of illusionism is fa r greater than th a t o f sculpture, fo r it can suggest objects possessing colour, textu re and tem p eratu re, filling a space and, by im plication, fillin g the entire w o rld . Holbein's painting o f The Ambassadors (1533) stands at the beginning o f the trad itio n and, as often happens w ith a w o rk at the opening o f a new period, its character is undisguised. The w ay it is painted show s w h a t it is about. H ow is it painted?



It is painted w ith great skill to create the illusion in the spectator th a t he is looking at real objects and m aterials. W e pointed out in the firs t essay th a t the sense o f touch w as like a restricted, s ta tic sense o f sight. Every square inch o f the surface of this painting, w h ils t remaining purely visual, appeals to, im portunes, the sense o f touch. The eye moves fro m fu r to silk to m etal to w ood to velvet to m arble to paper to fe lt, and each tim e w h a t the eye perceives is already tran slated, w ith in the painting itse lf, into the language o f tac tile sensation. The tw o men have a certain presence and there are many objects w h ich sym bolize ideas, but it is the m aterials, the s tu ff, by w hich the men are surrounded and clothed w hich dom inate the painting.

Except fo r the faces and hands, there is not a surface in this picture w h ich does not make one aw are o f how it has been elaborately w o rked over - by w eavers, em broiderers, carpet-m akers, goldsm iths, leather w o rkers, m osaic-m akers, fu rriers, tailo rs, jew ellers —and o f h o w this w o rk in g -o v er and the resulting richness of each surface has been fin ally w o rk ed -o ve r and reproduced by Holbein the painter. This emphasis and the skill th a t lay behind it w as to remain a constant o f the tra d itio n of oil painting. W o rks o f a rt in earlier tradition s celebrated w e alth . But w e alth w as then a symbol of a fixed social or divine order. Oil painting celebrated a new kind o f w e alth w hich w as dynamic and w hich found its only sanction in the supreme buying pow er o f money. Thus painting its e lf had to be able to dem onstrate the desirability o f w h a t money could buy. And the visual desirability o f w h a t can be bought lies in its tan g ib ility , in how it w ill rew ard the touch, the hand, o f the ow ner.

In the foreground of Holbein's Ambassadors there is a m ysterious, slanting, oval form . This represents; a highly distorted sku ll: a skull as it m ight be seen in a d isto rtin g m irror. There are several theories about how it w as painted and w h y the ambassadors w an ted it put there. But all agree that it was a kind of m em ento m ori: a play on the medieval idea of using a skull as a continual rem inder of the presence of death. W h a t is significant fo r our argum ent is th a t the skull is painted in a (litera lly ) q uite d iffe re n t optic fro m everything else in the picture. If the skull had been painted like the rest, its m etaphysical im plication w o u ld have disappeared; it w ould have become an object like everything else, a mere part o f a mere skeleton o f a man w h o happened to be dead. This w as a problem w hich persisted th rou g h o u t the trad itio n . W hen m etaphysical symbols are introduced (and later there w ere painters w h o , fo r instance, introduced realistic skulls as symbols o f d eath), th e ir sym bolism is usually made unconvincing or unnatural by the unequivocal, s ta tic m aterialism o f the paintin g -m etho d.


It is the same contradiction w hich m akes the average religious painting o f the trad itio n appear hypocritical. The claim o f the them e is made em pty by the w ay the subject is painted. The paint cannot free its e lf o f its original propensity to procure the tangible fo r the im m ediate pleasure o f the ow n er. Here, fo r example, are three paintings o f M ary M agdalene.

The point o f her story is th a t she so loved C hrist th a t she repented o f her past and came to accept the m o rtality o f flesh and the im m o rta lity o f the soul. Y e t the w ay the pictures are painted contradicts the essence o f th is story. It is as though the tran sfo rm atio n o f her life brought about by her repentance has not taken place. The m ethod o f painting is incapable o f m aking the renunciation she is m eant to have made. She is painted as being, before she is anything else, a takeable and desirable w om an. She is still the com pliant object o f the p aintin g -m etho d's seduction.

It is interesting to note here the exceptional case >f W illiam Blake. As a draughtsm an and engraver Blake learnt iccording to the rules o f the trad itio n . But w hen he cam e to nake paintings, he very seldom used oil paint and, although ie still relied upon the trad itio n al conventions of d raw ing, ie did everything he could to m ake his figures lose substance, o become transparent and indeterm inate one fro m the other, 0 defy gravity, to be present but intangible, to g lo w w ith o u t 1 definable surface, not to be reducible to objects.

This w ish o f Blake's to transcend the 's u b s ta n tia lity ' o f oil >aint derived fro m a deep insight into the meaning and im itation s o f the trad itio n .

Let us now return to the tw o am bassadors, to th e ir presence as men. This w ill mean reading the painting d iffe re n tly : not at the level o f w h a t it show s w ith in its fram e, but at the level o f w h a t it refers to outside it.

The tw o men are confident and fo rm a l; as b etw een each other they are relaxed. But ho w do they look at the painter — or at us ? There is in th e ir gaze and th e ir stance a curious lack o f expectation o f any recognition. It is as though in principle th e ir w o rth cannot be recognized by others. They look as though they are looking at som ething o f w hich they are not part. A t som ething w hich surrounds them but fro m w hich they w ish to exclude them selves. A t the best it may be a crow d honouring th e m ; at the w o rs t, intruders. W h at w e re the relations o f such men w ith the r e s t o f the w o rld ? The painted objects on the shelves betw een them w e re intended to supply — to the fe w w h o could read the allusions - a certain am ount o f inform ation about th e ir position in the w o rld . Four centuries later w e can in terp re t this inform ation according to our ow n perspective.

T h e s c ie n tific in s tru m e n ts on th e to p s h e lf w e re fo r n a v ig a tio n . T h is w a s th e tim e w h e n th e ocean tra d e ro u te s w e re being o pened up fo r th e slave tra d e and fo r th e tr a ffic w h ic h w a s to sip h o n th e rich es fro m o th e r c o n tin e n ts in to Europe, and la te r s u p p ly th e c a p ita l fo r th e ta k e - o f f o f th e In d u s tria l R e v o lu tio n .

In 1519 M agellan had set out, w ith the backing of Charles V, to sail round the w o rld . He and an astronom er friend, w ith w hom he had planned the voyage, arranged w ith the Spanish court th a t they personally w ere to keep tw e n ty per cent o f the p ro fits made, and the right to run the governm ent o f any land they conquered. The globe on the bottom shelf is a new one w hich charts this recent voyage o f M agellan's. Holbein has added to the globe the name o f the estate in France w h ich belonged to the ambassador on the le ft. Beside the globe are a book of arithm etic, a hymn book and a lute. To colonize a land it w as necessary to convert its people to C hristian ity and accounting, and thus to prove to them th a t European civilization w as the most advanced in the w o rld . Its a rt included.

The A frican kneels to hold up an oil painting to his f a s te r . The painting depicts the castle above one o f the Principal centres o f the W e s t A frican slave trade.

H o w directly or not the tw o ambassadors w ere involved in the firs t colonizing ventures is not p articularly im po rtant, fo r w h a t w e are concerned w ith here is a stance to w a rd s the w o rld ; and this w as general to a w h o le class. The tw o ambassadors belonged to a class w h o w ere convinced that the w o rld w as there to furnish th e ir residence in it. In its extrem e form this conviction w as confirm ed by the relations being set up betw een colonial conqueror and the colonized.

These relations betw een conqueror and colonized tended to be self-p erp etu atin g . The sight o f the o ther confirm ed each in his inhuman estim ate of him self. The circularity o f the relationship can be seen in the fo llo w in g diagram - as also the m utual solitude. The w ay in w h ich each sees the other confirm s his o w n v iew o f him self.


The gaze o f the ambassadors is both aloof and wary. They expect no reciprocity. They w ish the image of their presence to impress others w ith th e ir vigilance and their distance. The presence o f kings and emperors had once impressed in a sim ilar w ay, but th e ir images had been com paratively impersonal. W h a t is new and disconcerting here is the individualized presence w hich needs to suggest distance. Individualism fin ally posits equality. Y e t equality must be made inconceivable. The co n flict again emerges in the paintingmethod. The surface verisim ilitu de of oil painting tends to make the view er assume th a t he is close to - w ith in touching distance o f - any object in the foreground of the picture. If the object is a person such p roxim ity im plies a certain intim acy.

Y et the painted public p o rtra it m ust insist upon a form al distance. It is this - and not technical inability on the part of the painter - w h ich makes the average p o rtra it o f the trad itio n appear s tiff and rigid. The a rtific ia lity is deep w ith in its ow n term s o f seeing, because the subject has to be seen sim ultaneously from clo se-to and from afar. The analogy ■s w ith specimens under a microscope.

They are there in all th e ir p articularity and w e can study them , but it is im possible to imagine them considering us in a sim ilar w ay.

The form al p o rtrait, as distin ct fro m the selfp o rtra it or the inform al p o rtra it o f the painter's friend never resolved this problem . But as the trad itio n continued, the painting o f the s itte r's face became more and more generalized.

His features became the mask w hich w e n t w ith the costum e. Today the fin al stage of this developm ent can be seen in the puppet tv appearance of the average politician.

Let us now briefly look at some of the genres of oil painting - categories o f painting which w ere part of its trad ition but exist in no other. Before the trad itio n o f oil painting, medieval painters often used g o ld -leaf in th e ir pictures. Later gold disappeared fro m paintings and w as only used fo r th e ir fram es. Y et many oil paintings w ere them selves simple dem onstrations of w h a t gold or money could buy. M erchandise became the actual s u b je c t-m atter o f w o rk s o f art.

Here the edible is made visible. Such a painting is a dem onstration o f more than the virtuosity o f the a rtis t. It confirm s the o w n er's w e a lth and habitual style o f living.

Paintings o f anim als. N ot animals in th e ir natural condition, but livestock w hose pedigree is emphasized as a proof o f th e ir value, and w hose pedigree emphasizes the social status o f their ow ners. (A nim als painted like pieces of fu rn itu re w ith fo u r legs.)


Paintings of objects. Objects w hich, significantly enough, became know n as objets d'art.

Paintings of buildings - buildings not considered as ideal w o rk s o f arch itecture, as in the w o rk o f some early Renaissance a rtis ts - but buildings as a featu re o f landed property.

The highest category in oil painting w as the history or m ythological picture. A painting o f Greek or ancient figures w as autom atically m ore highly esteem ed than a s tilllife, a p o rtra it or a landscape. Except fo r certain exceptional w o rks in w hich the p ainter's ow n personal lyricism w as expressed, these m ythological paintings s trike us today as the m ost vacuous of all. They are like tired tableaux in w ax th a t w o n 't m elt. Y e t th e ir prestige and th e ir em ptiness w e re d irectly connected. 100


U ntil very recently - and in certain m ilieux even today —a certain moral value w as ascribed to the study o f the classics. This w as because the classic texts, w h a te ve r th e ir intrinsic w o rth , supplied th e higher s trata of th e ruling class w ith a system o f references fo r the form s o f th e ir ow n idealized behaviour. As w e ll as poetry, logic and philosophy, the classics offered a system o f etiq uette. They o ffered examples o f how the heightened m om ents o f life - to be found in heroic action, the dignified exercise of pow er, passion, courageous death, the noble pursuit of pleasure - should be lived, or, at least, should be seen to be lived. Y e t w hy are these pictures so vacuous and so perfunctory in th e ir evocation of the scenes they are m eant to recreate? They did not need to stim ulate the im agination. If they had, they w o u ld have served their purpose less w e ll. Their purpose w as not to tran s p o rt th e ir spectato r-o w n ers into new experience, but to em bellish such experience as they already possessed. Before these canvases the s p e cta to r-o w n er hoped to see the classic face o f his ow n passion or g rie f or generosity. The idealized appearances he found in the painting w ere an aid, a support, to his ow n view o f him self. In those appearances he found the guise o f his ow n (or his w ife 's or his daughters') nobility. 101

Som etim es the borrow ing o f the classic guise was simple, as in Reynolds's painting of the daughters o f the fam ily dressed up as Graces decorating Hymen.

Som etim es the w hole m ythological scene functions like a garm ent held out fo r the spe cta to r-o w n er to put his arms into and w ear. The fa c t th a t the scene is substantial, and yet, behind its sub stantiality, em pty, fac ilita te s the 'w ea rin g ' of it.


The so-called 'genre' picture - the picture of 'lo w life' - w as thou g h t of as the opposite of the m ythological picture. It w as vulgar instead of noble. The purpose o f the 'genre' picture w as to prove - either positively or negatively that virtue in this w o rld w as rew arded by social and financial success. Thus, those w ho could affo rd to buy these pictures cheap as they w ere — had th e ir ow n virtue confirm ed. Such pictures w ere particularly popular w ith the new ly arrived bourgeoisie w ho id entified them selves not w ith the characters painted but w ith the moral which the scene illustrated. Again, the facu lty of oil paint to create the illusion of substantiality lent p lausibility to a sentim ental lie: namely th a t it was the honest and hard-w o rking w ho prospered, and th a t the g o o d-for-n o thing s deservedly had nothing.

Adriaen B rouw er w as the only exceptional 'genre' painter. His pictures o f cheap taverns and those w h o ended up in them , are painted w ith a b itte r and direct realism w hich precludes sentim ental m oralizing. As a result his pictures w ere never bought - except by a fe w other painters such as Rem brandt and Rubens. The average 'genre' painting —even w hen painted by a 'm aster' like Hals - w as very d iffe re n t.


These people belong to the poor. The poor can be seen in the stre et outside or in the countryside. Pictures o f the poor inside the house, how ever, are reassuring. Here the painted poor smile as they o ffe r w h a t they have fo r sale. (They sm ile show ing th e ir teeth , w hich the rich in pictures never do.) They sm ile at the b e tte r-o ff - to ingratiate them selves, but also at the prospect of a sale or a job. Such pictures assert tw o things: th a t the poor are happy, and th a t the b e tte r-o ff are a source o f hope fo r the w o rld .

Landscape, o f all the categories o f oil painting, is the one to w hich our argum ent applies least.

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prior to the recent interest in ecology, nature w as not tho u g h t of as the object of the activities o f capitalism ; rather it w as thought of as the arena in w hich capitalism and social life and each individual life had its being. Aspects of nature w ere objects of scien tific study, but n atu re-as-a-w h o le defied possession.

One m ight put this even more simply. The sky has no surface and is intangible; the sky cannot be turned into a thing or given a quantity. And landscape painting begins w ith the problem o f painting sky and distance. The firs t pure landscapes - painted in Holland in the seventeenth century —answ ered no direct social need. (As a result Ruysdael starved and Hobbema had to give up.) Landscape painting w as, fro m its inception, a relatively independent activity. Its painters naturally inherited and so, to a large extent, w e re forced to continue the m ethods and norms of the trad itio n . But each tim e the trad ition of oil painting w as significantly m odified, the firs t in itia tive came fro m landscape painting. From the seventeenth century onw ards the exceptional innovators in term s o f vision and therefo re technique w ere Ruysdael, Rem brandt (the use of light in his later w o rk derived from his landscape studies). C onstable (in his sketches). Turner and, at the end of the period, M o n e t and the Im pressionists. Furtherm ore, th e ir innovations led Progressively aw ay fro m the substantial and tangible to w ard s the indeterm inate and intangible.

Nevertheless the special relation betw een oil painting and property did play a certain role even in the developm ent of landscape painting. Consider the w e ll-k n o w n example of Gainsborough's Mr and Mrs Andrews.
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Kenneth Clark* has w ritte n about Gainsborough and this canvas:
At the very beginning of his career his pleasure in what he saw inspired him to put into his pictures backgrounds as sensitively observed as the corn-field in which are seated Mr and Mrs Andrews. This enchanting work is painted with such love and mastery that we should have expected Gainsborough to go further in the same direction; but he gave up direct painting, and evolved the melodious style of picture-making by which he is best known. His recent biographers have thought that the business of portrait painting left him no time to make studies from nature, and they have quoted his famous letter about being 'sick of portraits and wishing to take his Viol de Gamba and walk off to some sweet village where he can paint landscips', to support the view that he would have been a naturalistic landscape painter if he had had the opportunity. But the Viol de Gamba letter is only part of Gainsborough's Rousseauism. His real opinions on the subject are contained in a letter to a patron who had been so 106


Clark, Landscape

into Art (John

M urray, London)

simple as to ask him for a painting of his park: ' Mr Gainsborough presents his humble respects to Lord Hardwicke, and shall always think it an honour to be employed in anything for His Lordship; but with regard to real views from Nature in this country, he has never seen any place that affords a subject equal to the poorest imitations of Gaspar or Claude.'

W hy did Lord H ardw icke w a n t a picture o f his park? W hy did M r and M rs A ndrew s com mission a p o rtra it of themselves w ith a recognizable landscape o f th e ir ow n land as background? They are not a couple in Nature as Rousseau imagined nature. They are landow ners and th e ir proprietary attitu d e tow ard s w h a t surrounds them is visible in th e ir stance and th e ir expressions.

Professor Law rence Gow ing has protested indignantly against the im plication th a t M r and M rs A ndrew s w ere interested in p roperty:
Before John Berger manages to interpose himself again between us and the visible meaning of a good picture, may I point out that there is evidence to confirm ihat Gainsborough's Mr and Mrs Andrews were doing something more with their stretch of country than merely owning it. The explicit theme of a contemporary and precisely analogous design by Gainsborough's mentor Francis Hayman suggests that the people in such pictures were engaged in philosophic enjoyment of 'the great Principle . . . the genuine Light of uncorrupted and un perverted Nature.'

The professor's argum ent is w o rth quoting because it is so s trikin g an illu stratio n o f th e disingenuousness th a t bedevils the subject o f art history. O f course it is very possible th a t M r and M rs A ndrew s w e re engaged in the philosophic enjoym ent o f unperverted N ature. But this in no w ay precludes them fro m being at the same tim e proud landowners. In m ost cases the possession o f private land w as the precondition fo r such philosophic enjoym ent - w hich w as not uncommon among the landed gentry. Their enjoym ent o f ' uncorrupted and unperverted n atu re ' did not, how ever, usually include the nature o f o ther men. The sentence o f poaching at th a t tim e w as d ep ortation. If a man stole a p o tato he risked a public w hipping ordered by the m agistrate w h o w ould be a landow ner. There w e re very s tric t property lim its to w h a t w as considered natural. The point being made is th a t, among the pleasures th e ir p o rtra it gave to M r and M rs A ndrew s, w as the pleasure o f seeing them selves depicted as landow ners and th is pleasure w as enhanced by th e ab ility o f oil paint to render th e ir land in all its sub stan tiality. And this is an observation w hich needs to be made, precisely because the cultural history w e are norm ally tau g h t pretends th a t it is an u n w orthy one.


Our survey o f the European oil painting has been very brief and th e re fo re very crude. It really am ounts to no more than a project fo r study - to be undertaken perhaps by others. But the s tartin g point o f the p roject should be clear. The special qualities o f oil painting lent them selves to a special system o f conventions fo r representing th e visible. The sum to tal o f these conventions is th e w ay o f seeing invented by oil painting. I t is usually said th a t the oil painting in its fram e is like an im aginary w in d o w open on to the w o rld . This is roughly the trad itio n 's ow n image o f its e lf - even allo w in g fo r all the stylistic changes (M a n n e ris t, Baroque, N eo-C lassic, Realist, etc.) w hich too k place during fo u r centuries. W e are arguing th a t if one studies the culture o f the European oil painting as a w hole, and if one leaves aside its ow n claim s fo r its e lf, its model is not so much a fram ed w in d o w open on to the w o rld as a safe let into the w a ll, a safe in w hich th e visible has been deposited. W e are accused o f being obsessed by property. The tru th is the o th er w ay round. It is th e society and culture in question w hich is so obsessed. Y e t to an obsessive his obsession alw ays seems to be o f the nature o f things and so is not recognized fo r w h a t it is. The relation betw een property and a rt in European culture appears natural to th a t culture, and consequently if som ebody dem onstrates the exten t o f the property in tere st in a given cultural field, it is said to be a dem onstration o f his obsession. And this allo w s the C ultural Establishm ent to project fo r a little longer its false rationalized image o f itse lf. The essential character o f oil painting has been obscured by an alm o st universal misreading o f the relationship betw een its 'tra d itio n ' and its 'm a s te rs '. Certain exceptional a rtis ts in exceptional circum stances broke free o f the norms o f the tra d itio n and produced w o rk th a t w as diam etrically opposed to its values; yet these a rtis ts are acclaimed as the tra d itio n 's supreme representatives: a claim w hich is made easier by the fa c t th a t a fte r th e ir death, the trad ition closed around th e ir w o rk , incorporating m inor technical innovations, and continuing as though nothing of principle had been disturbed. This is w h y Rem brandt or Verm eer or Poussin or Chardin or Goya or T u rn er had no follo w ers but only superficial im itators.

From the trad itio n a kind of stereotype o f 'th e great a r tis t' has emerged. This great a rtis t is a man whose life -tim e is consumed by struggle: partly against m aterial circum stances, partly against incom prehension, partly against him self. He is imagined as a kind o f Jacob w re stlin g w ith an Angel. (The examples extend fro m M ichelangelo to Van Gogh.) In no other culture has the a rtis t been thought o f in this w ay. W hy then in this culture? W e have already referred to the exigencies o f the open a rt m arket. But the struggle w as not only to live. Each tim e a painter realized th a t he w as d issatisfied w ith the lim ited role of painting as a celebration of m aterial property and o f the status th a t accompanied it, he inevitably found him self struggling w ith the very language of his ow n a rt as understood by the trad itio n o f his calling. The tw o categories of exceptional w o rk s and average (typ ical) w o rk s are essential to our argum ent. But they cannot be applied mechanically as critical criteria. The critic m ust understand the term s o f the antagonism . Every exceptional w o rk w as the result of a prolonged successful struggle. Innum erable w o rk s involved no struggle. There w ere also prolonged yet unsuccessful struggles. To be an exception a painter w hose vision had been form ed by the trad itio n , and w ho had probably studied as an apprentice or stud en t from the age of sixteen, needed to recognize his vision fo r w h a t it w as, and then to separate it fro m the usage fo r w hich it had been developed. Single-handed he had to contest the norms of the a rt th a t had form ed him. He had to see him self as a painter in a w ay th a t denied the seeing o f a painter. This m eant th a t he saw him self doing som ething th a t nobody else could foresee. The degree o f e ffo rt required is suggested in tw o s e lf-p o rtra its by Rem brandt.


The firs t w as painted in 1634 when he w as tw e n ty -e ig h t; the second th irty years later. But the difference betw een them am ounts to som ething more than the fa c t th a t age has changed the painter's appearance and character.

The firs t painting occupies a special place in, as it w ere, the film o f Rem brandt's life. He painted it in the year o f his firs t m arriage. In it he is show ing o ff Saskia his bride. W ithin six years she w ill be dead. The painting is cited to sum up the so-called happy period of the a rtis t's life. Y e t if one approaches it now w ith o u t sen tim en tality, one sees th a t its happiness is both form al and u n felt. Rem brandt is here using the trad itio n al m ethods fo r th e ir trad itio n al purposes. His individual style may be becoming recognizable. But it is no more than the style o f a n ew perform er playing a trad itio n al role. The painting as a w h o le remains an advertisem ent fo r the sitte r's good fortu n e, prestige and w e alth . (In this case R em brandt's o w n .) And like all such advertisem ents it is heartless.

In the later painting he has turned the trad itio n against itse lf. He has w rested its language aw ay fro m it. He is an old man. All has gone except a sense o f the question o f existence, o f existence as a question. And the painter in him — w ho is both more and less than the old man — has found the means to express ju s t th a t, using a medium w hich had been trad itio n ally developed to exclude any such question.




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In the cities in w h ich w e live, all o f us see hundreds of publicity images every day o f our lives. No o ther kind o f image con fro n ts us so frequently. In no o ther form o f society in history has there been such a concentration o f images, such a density o f visual messages. One may rem em ber or fo rg e t these messages but briefly one takes them in, and fo r a m om ent they stim ulate the im agination by w ay o f either m em ory or expectation. The publicity image belongs to the m om ent. W e see it as w e turn

a page, as w e turn a corner, as a vehicle passes us. Or w e see it on a television screen w h ils t w a itin g fo r the com m ercial break to end. Publicity images also belong to the m om ent in the sense th a t they m ust be continually renewed and made u p -to -d a te . Y e t they never speak of the present. O ften they refer to the past and always they speak of the fu tu re.

W e are no w so accustom ed to being addressed by these images th a t w e scarcely notice th e ir to ta l im pact. A person may notice a p articular image or piece o f in fo rm atio n because it corresponds to some p articular in terest he has. But w e accept the to ta l system o f publicity images as w e accept an elem ent o f clim ate. For example, the fa c t th a t these images belong to the m om ent but speak o f the fu tu re produces a strange e ffe c t w h ich has become so fam ilia r th a t w e scarcely notice it. Usually it is we w ho pass the image - w alkin g, travelling, turning a page; on the tv screen it is som ew h at d iffe re n t but even then w e are theo retically the active agent w e can look aw ay, turn dow n the sound, make some coffee. Y e t despite this, one has the im pression th a t publicity images are continually passing us, like express trains on th e ir w ay to some distan t term inus. W e are s ta tic ; they are dynam ic - until the new spaper is th ro w n aw ay, the television program m e continues or the poster is posted over. Publicity is usually explained and ju s tifie d as a com petitive medium w hich ultim ately benefits the public (the

consumer) and the m ost e ffic ie n t m anufacturers - and thus the national economy. It is closely related to certain ideas about freedom : freedom o f choice fo r the purchaser: freedom o f enterprise fo r the m anufacturer. The great hoardings and the publicity neons of the cities o f capitalism are the im m ediate visible sign o f 'T h e Free W o rld '.

For many in Eastern Europe such images in the W est sum up w h a t they in the East lack. Publicity, it is thought, o ffers a free choice. It is tru e th a t in publicity one brand of m anufacture, one firm , com petes w ith another; but it is also true th a t every publicity im age confirm s and enhances every other. Publicity is not m erely an assembly o f com peting messages: it is a language in its e lf w h ich is alw ays being used to m ake the same general proposal. W ith in publicity, choices are offered betw een this cream and th a t cream, th a t car and this car, but publicity as a system only makes a single proposal. It proposes to each o f us th a t w e tran s fo rm ourselves, or our lives, by buying som ething more. This more, it proposes, w ill m ake us in some way richer —even though w e w ill be poorer by having spent our money. Publicity persuades us o f such a tran sfo rm atio n by showing us people w ho have apparently been transform ed and are, as a result, enviable. The s tate o f being envied is w h a t con stitu tes glam our. And publicity is the process o f m anufacturing glam our.

It is im p o rtan t here not to confuse publicity w ith the pleasure or benefits to be enjoyed fro m the things it advertises. Publicity is effec tive precisely because it feeds upon the real. Clothes, food, cars, cosm etics, baths, sunshine are real things to be enjoyed in them selves. Publicity begins by w o rkin g on a natural app etite fo r pleasure. But it cannot o ffe r the real object o f pleasure and there is no convincing s ub stitu te fo r a pleasure in th a t pleasure's o w n term s. The more convincingly publicity conveys the pleasure o f bathing in a w arm , d istan t sea, the more the spectator-buyer w ill become a w are th a t he is hundreds o f miles aw ay from th a t sea and the more rem ote the chance o f bathing in it w ill seem to him. This is w h y publicity can never really a ffo rd to be about the product or opportun ity it is proposing to the buyer w h o is not yet enjoying it. Publicity is never a celebration o f a p le as u re-in -its elf. Publicity is alw ays about the fu tu re buyer. It o ffe rs him an image o f him self made glam orous by the product or o p p ortu nity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious o f him self as he m ight be. Y e t w h a t makes this s e lf-w h ic h -h e -m ig h t-b e enviable? The envy o f others. Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its prom ise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged fro m the outside by others. The happiness o f being envied is glam our.

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Being envied is a solitary form o f reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience w ith those w ho envy you. You are observed w ith in terest but you do not observe w ith in terest - if you do, you w ill become less enviable. In this respect the envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (fo r them selves and fo r others) o f th e ir pow er. The p ow er o f the glam orous resides in th e ir supposed happiness: the p o w er o f the bureaucrat in his supposed auth ority. It is th is w hich explains the absent, unfocused look o f so many glam our images. They look out over the looks o f envy w hich sustain them .

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The spectator-buyer is m eant to envy herself as she w ill become if she buys the product. She is m eant to imagine herself transform ed by the product into an object of envy fo r others, an envy w hich w ill then ju s tify her loving herself. One could put this another w a y: the publicity image steals her love o f herself as she is, and o ffe rs it back to her fo r the price of the product.

Does the language o f publicity have anything in common w ith th a t of oil painting w hich, until the invention of the camera, dom inated the European w ay of seeing during fou r centuries? It is one o f those questions w hich sim ply needs to be asked fo r the answ er to become clear. There is a direct continuity. Only interests o f cultural prestige have obscured it. A t the same tim e , despite the continuity, there is a profound difference w h ich it is no less im p o rtan t to examine. There are many d irect references in publicity to w o rk s of a rt fro m the past. Som etim es a w h o le image is a fran k pastiche o f a w e ll-k n o w n painting.
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Publicity images often use sculptures or paintings to lend allure or auth ority to th e ir ow n message. Framed oil paintings often hang in shop w in d o w s as part o f th e ir display. Any w o rk o f art 'quoted' by publicity serves tw o purposes. A rt is a sign o f afflu en ce; it belongs to the good life; it is part of the furnishing w hich the w o rld gives to the rich and the beautiful.

But a w o rk of a rt also suggests a cultural authority, a form of dignity, even o f w isdom , w hich is superior to any vulgar m aterial in tere st; an oil painting belongs to the cultural heritage; it is a rem inder of w h a t it means to be a cultivated European. And so the quoted w o rk o f a rt (and this is why it is so useful to publicity) says tw o alm ost contradictory things at the same tim e : it denotes w e alth and s p iritu a lity : it implies th a t the purchase being proposed is both a luxury and a cultural value. Publicity has in fa c t understood the trad itio n of the oil painting more thoroughly than m ost a rt historians. It has grasped the im plications o f the relationship betw een the w o rk o f a rt and its spe cta to r-o w n er and w ith these it tries to persuade and fla tte r the spectator-buyer. The continuity, how ever, betw een oil painting and publicity goes fa r deeper than the 'q u o tin g ' o f specific paintings. Publicity relies to a very large exten t on the language o f oil painting. It speaks in the same voice about the same things. Som etim es the visual correspondences are so close th a t it is possible to play a game o f 'S n a p !' - putting alm ost identical images or details o f images side by side.



It is not, how ever, ju s t at the level o f exact pictorial correspondence th a t the continuity is im p o rtan t: it is at the level o f the sets o f signs used. Compare the images o f publicity and paintings in this book, or tak e a picture magazine, or w a lk dow n a sm art shopping s tre e t looking at the w in d o w displays, and then turn over the pages o f an illu strated museum catalogue, and notice how sim ilarly messages are conveyed by the tw o media. A system atic study needs to be made o f this. Here w e can do no m ore than indicate a fe w areas w h ere the sim ilarity o f the devices and aims is particularly strikin g .

The gestures o f models (m annequins) and m ythological figures. The rom antic use o f nature (leaves, trees, w a te r) to create a place w h ere innocence can be refound. The exotic and nostalgic a ttrac tio n o f the M editerranean. The poses taken up to denote stereotypes o f w o m en : serene m other (m adonna), free -w h ee lin g secretary (actress, king's m istress), p erfect hostess (sp e ctato r-o w n e r's w ife ), sex-object (Venus, nymph surprised), etc. The special sexual emphasis given to w om en's legs. The m aterials particularly used to indicate luxury: engraved m etal, furs, polished leather, etc. The gestures and em braces o f lovers, arranged fro n ta lly fo r the ben efit o f the spectator. The sea, o fferin g a n ew life. The physical stance o f men conveying w e alth and v irility . The tre a tm e n t o f distance by perspective o ffe rin g m ystery. The equation o f drinking and success. The man as knigh t (horsem an) become m o torist.

W hy does publicity depend so heavily upon the visual language o f oil painting?

Publicity is the culture of the consumer society. It propagates through images th a t society's belief in itself. There are several reasons w h y these images use the language of oil painting. Oil painting, before it w as anything else, w as a celebration o f private property. As an a rt-fo rm it derived fro m the principle th a t you are what you have. S |2

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Publicity is, in essence, nostalgic. It has to sell the past to the fu tu re . It cannot its e lf supply the standards o f its own claims. And so all its references to quality are bound to be retrospective and trad itio n al. It w ould lack both confidence and cred ib ility if it used a s tric tly contem porary language.

Publicity needs to turn to its ow n advantage the trad itio n al education o f the average spectator-buyer. W h at he has learnt a t school o f history, m ythology, poetry can be used in the m anufacturing o f glam our. Cigars can be sold in the name o f a King, underw ear in connection w ith the Sphinx, a new car by reference to the status of a country house.

In the language o f oil painting these vague historical or poetic or moral references are alw ays present. The fa c t th a t they are im precise and ultim ately meaningless is an advantage: they should not be understandable, they should merely be rem iniscent o f cultural lessons h alf-le arn t. Publicity makes all history m ythical, but to do so effec tive ly it needs a visual language w ith historical dimensions.

Lastly, a technical developm ent made it easy to tran slate the language o f oil painting into publicity cliches. This w as the invention, about fifte e n years ago, o f cheap colour photography. Such photography can reproduce the colour and tex tu re and tan g ib ility of objects as only oil paint had been able to do before. Colour photography is to the spectator-buyer w h a t oil paint w as to the s p ectato r-o w n er.

Both media use sim ilar, highly tac tile means to play upon the spectator's sense o f acquiring the real thing w hich the image shows. In both cases his feeling th a t he can alm ost touch w hat is in the image reminds him how he m ight or does possess the real thing.

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Y et, despite this con tinu ity of language, the function of publicity is very d iffe re n t from th a t of the oil Painting. The spectator-buyer stands in a very d iffe re n t relation to the w o rld fro m the s p ectato r-o w n er.

The oil painting showed w h a t its ow n er w as already enjoying among his possessions and his w ay o f life. It consolidated his ow n sense o f his ow n value. It enhanced his view of him self as he already w as. It began w ith facts, the facts o f his life. The paintings embellished the in terior in which he actually lived.

The purpose o f publicity is to make the spectator m arginally d issatisfied w ith his present w ay o f life. N ot w ith the w ay o f life o f society, but w ith his ow n w ith in it. It suggests th a t if he buys w h a t it is o fferin g , his life w ill become better. It o ffe rs him an improved altern ative to w h a t he is.

The oil painting w as addressed to those w ho made money out o f the m arket. Publicity is addressed to those w ho c onstitute the m arket, to the spectator-buyer w ho is also the consum er-producer fro m w hom p ro fits are made tw ic e over — as w o rk e r and then as buyer. The only places relatively free of publicity are the quarters o f the very rich; th e ir money is theirs to keep.

All publicity w o rks upon anxiety. The sum of everything is money, to get money is to overcome anxiety.

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A lternatively the anxiety on w hich publicity plays is the fear that having nothing you w ill be nothing.

M oney is life. N o t in the sense th a t w ith o u t money you starve. N o t in the sense th a t capital gives one class p o w er over the entire lives o f another class. But in the sense th a t money is the token o f, and the key to, every human capacity. The po w er to spend money is the pow er to live. According to the legends o f publicity, those w h o lack the pow er to spend money become literally faceless. Those w h o have the p ow er become lovable.

Publicity speaks in the fu tu re tense and yet the achievem ent o f this fu tu re is endlessly deferred. H o w then does publicity remain credible - or credible enough to exert the influence it does? It remains credible because the tru th fu ln ess o f publicity is judged, not by the real fu lfilm e n t o f its prom ises, but by the relevance o f its fantasies to those o f the spectato rbuyer. Its essential application is not to reality but to day­ dreams. To understand this b etter w e m ust go back to the notion o f glamour.

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G lam our is a modern invention. In the heyday of the oil painting it did not exist. Ideas of grace, elegance, auth o rity am ounted to som ething apparently sim ilar but fundam entally d iffe re n t.

M rs Siddons as seen by Gainsborough is not glamorous, because she is not presented as enviable and therefore happy. She may be seen as w ealth y, b eautiful, talented, lucky. But her qualities are her ow n and have been recognized as such. W h at she is does not entirely depend upon others w a n tin g to be like her. She is not purely the creature of others' envy - w hich is how, fo r example, Andy W arhol presents M arilyn M onroe.

The entire w o rld becomes a setting fo r the fu lfilm e n t o f publicity's promise of the good life. The w o rld smiles at us. It o ffe rs itse lf to us. And because everywhere is imagined as o fferin g its e lf to us, everywhere is more or less the same.


According to publicity, to be sophisticated is to live beyond conflict.

P .I .A . h a s t h e b e s t p la c e s : lonoow iranhm w t Paris gm «va: Istanbul BfllRUT BAGHDAD KUWAIT OHAHRAN UHRAN KARACHI OACCA KATHMANDU CANTON SHAN(1HAI> BAHRAIN OOHA 0UBAI-JEM>AM»NA\R08I

Publicity can translate even revolution into its ow n term s.



The con trast betw een p ublicity's in terp retatio n o f the w o rld and the w o rld 's actual condition is a very stark one, and this som etim es becomes evident in the colour magazines which deal w ith new s stories. Overleaf is the contents page o f such a magazine. 151

i h e sun d ay t im e s
1 h e P i c t u r e s q u e S l u m : ilic U m usc o f ( k m i m o n s , h o w it •vi-rks. a n d w h y i i d o e s n ’t A >'rk K t t c r , b y T o m D r i b e r g ; n m d e K by R<»gcr L a w a n d

Content*, June 6, |97tm am O tnne Vi

Detrdre Am*den. Page 8 t he Koad from Bangla Desh: the plight of thp 1jsr 1’aksstan refugees (right), photographed bv Donald McCullm. Page 20 The Fuehrer’s Mistress: ih t \«angc love affair of Eva Braun acd Adolf Hitler, by Airtony Terry; with newly reteas^ photographs. Page 28 High-Speed Lib: profile of Manc-Oaudc lieautnont, the hrst woman for 20 years to drive at tx Mans, by Judith Jackson, photograph by David Stccn. Page 40 Chess by C iT tVlX Alex­ ander , Bridge by Boris Schapiro, M ephisto Cross­ word Page 41

Things happen after a badedas bath
'" «rc gen try\H ie *fe a t 'W< > .• 7 • •B u r t it’ sW h it K ap p tm'a fterw rn j» ite? - * * <t: • < re-bum , in v> g 6**t«d a ll <j,l*9ew-vt * • M h * -tren chsn rggit m |oe dc • ;

► wtoygre«nwcrm bubble jr*} of <Seep g!W> corner, i.ii for<;<n ^ iaded« with 'V myitef « • terse ii we**Tt &iryofd m agve , 4080. Suit IM S . y/ifSow g c■ r*-v :!


The shock o f such contrasts is considerable: not only because o f the coexistence o f the tw o w o rld s show n, but also because o f the cynicism o f the culture w hich show s them one above the other. It can be argued th a t the juxtap ositio n of images w as not planned. Nevertheless the te x t, the photographs taken in Pakistan, the photographs taken fo r the advertisem ents, the editing o f the magazine, the layout o f the publicity, the printing o f both, the fa c t th a t advertiser's pages and new s pages cannot be co-ordinated - all these are produced by the same culture.

It is not, how ever, the moral shock o f the con trast which needs emphasizing. A dvertisers them selves can take account o f the shock. The Advertisers Weekly (3 M arch 1972) reports th a t some publicity firm s, now aw are o f the com m ercial danger o f such unfortun ate juxtap ositio ns in news magazines, are deciding to use less brash, more sombre images, o ften in black and w h ite rather than colour. W h a t w e need to realize is w h a t such contrasts reveal about the nature of publicity. Publicity is essentially eventless. It extends ju s t as far as nothing else is happening. For publicity all real events are exceptional and happen only to strangers. In the Bangla Desh photographs, the events w e re trag ic and distan t. But the contrast w ou ld have been no less s tark if they had been events near a t hand in Derry or Birm ingham . Nor is the contrast necessarily dependent upon the events being tragic. If they are tragic, th e ir tragedy alerts our moral sense to the contrast. Y e t if the events w ere joyous and if they w e re photographed in a direct and unstereotyped w ay the con trast w ould be ju s t as great. P ublicity, situated in a fu tu re continually deferred, excludes the present and so elim inates all becoming, all developm ent. Experience is im possible w ith in it. All th a t happens, happens outside it. The fa c t th a t publicity is eventless w ould be im m ediately obvious if it did not use a language w hich m akes o f tan g ib ility an event in itself. Everything publicity show s is there a w aitin g acquisition. The act o f acquiring has taken th e place o f all o th er actions, the sense o f having has o b literated all o th er senses. Publicity exerts an enorm ous influence and is a political phenomenon o f great im portance. But its o ffe r is as narro w as its references are w id e. I t recognizes nothing except the p o w er to acquire. All oth er human facu lties or needs are made subsidiary to this pow er. All hopes are gathered tog eth er, made hom ogeneous, sim plified, so th a t they become the intense yet vague, magical yet repeatable prom ise o ffered in every purchase. No other kind o f hope or satisfactio n or pleasure can any longer be envisaged w ith in the culture o f capitalism .

Publicity is the life o f this culture - in so fa r as w ith o u t publicity capitalism could not survive - and a t the same tim e publicity is its dream. C apitalism survives by forcing the m ajority, w hom it exploits, to define th e ir ow n interests as n arrow ly as possible. This w as once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard o f w h a t is and w h a t is not desirable.





List of W orks Reproduced

8 The Key of Dreams by Rene Magritte, 1 8 9 8 -1 9 6 7 , private collection 1 2 Regents o f the Old M en's Alms House by Frans Hals, 1 5 8 0 -1 6 6 6 , Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem 12 Regentesses of the Old M en's Alms House by Frans Hals, 1 5 8 0 -1 6 6 6 , Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem 18 Still Life w ith W icker Chair by Picasso 1 8 8 1 20 Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci, 1 4 5 2 -1 5 1 9 , National Gallery, London 22 Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci, 1 4 5 2 -1 5 1 9 , Louvre, Paris 23 The Virgin and Child w ith St Anne and St John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci, 1 4 5 2 -1 5 1 9 , National Gallery, London 25 Venus and M ars by Sandro Botticelli, 1 4 4 5 -1 5 1 0 , National Gallery, London 27 The Procession to Calvary by Pieter Breughel the Elder, 1 5 2 5 -6 9 , Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 27 W h eatfield w ith Crows by Vincent van Gogh, 1 8 5 3 -9 0 , Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 31 W om an Pouring M ilk by Jan Vermeer, 1 6 3 2 -7 5 , Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 38 (top left) Nude by Picasso, 1 8 8 1 38 (top right) Nude by Modigliani, 1 8 8 4 -1 9 2 0 , Courtauld Institute Galleries, London 38 (bottom left) Neverm ore by Gaugin, 1 8 4 8 -1 9 0 3 , Courtauld Institute Galleries, London 38 (bottom right) Nude Standing Figure by Giacometti, Tate Gallery, London 39 Bathsheba by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1 6 0 6 -6 9 , Louvre, Paris 43 Judgem ent o f Paris by Peter Paul Rubens, 1 5 7 7 -1 6 4 0 , National Gallery, London 157

45 Reclining Bacchante by Felix Trutat, 1 8 2 4 -4 8 , Musee des Beaux Arts, Dijon 48 The Garden of Eden; the Tem ptation, the Fall and the Expulsion Miniature from 'Les Tres Riches Heures du Due de Berry' by Pol de Limbourg and brothers, before 1416, Musee Conde, Chantilly 49 Adam and Eve by Jan Gossart called Mabuse, died c.1533, Her Majesty the Queen 49 The Couple by Max Slevogt, 1868— 1932, 50 Susannah and the Elders by Jacopo Tintoretto, 15 18 -9 4 , Louvre, Paris 50 Susannah and the Elders by Jacopo Tintoretto, 151 8 -9 4 , Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 51 V a n ity by Hans Memling, 1 4 3 5 -9 4 , Strasbourg Museum 51 The Judgem ent of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 14 7 2 -1 5 5 3 , Landesmuseum, Gotha 52 The Judgem ent o f Paris by Peter Paul Rubens, 1577— 1640, National Gallery, London 52 Nell G wynne by Sir Peter Lely, 1 6 1 8 -8 0 , Denys Bower collection, Chiddingstone Castle, Kent 53 M ochica Pottery depicting sexual intercourse Photograph by Shippee-Johnson, Lima, Peru 53 Rajasthan, 18th century, Ajit Mookerjee, New Delhi 53 Vishnu and Lakshmi, 11th century, Parsavanatha Temple, Khajuraho 54 Venus, Cupid, Tim e and Love by Agnolo Bronzino, 15 0 3 -7 2 , National Gallery, London 55 La Grande Odalisque by J. A. D. Ingres, 1 7 8 0 -1 8 6 7 , Louvre, Paris (detail) 56 Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid by Hans von Aachen, 15 52 -1 6 1 5 , Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 57 Les Oreades by William Bouguereau, 1 8 2 5 -1 9 0 5 , private collection 58 Danae by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1 6 0 6 -6 9 , Hermitage, Leningrad (detail) 60 Hel&ne Fourm ent in a Fur Coat by Peter Paul Rubens, 1 5 7 7 -1 6 4 0 , Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 62 M an D raw ing Reclining W om an by Albrecht Durer, 1 4 7 1 -1 5 2 8 62 Woodcut from Four Books on the Human Proportions by Albrecht Durer, 1 4 7 1 -1 5 2 8 158

63 The Venus of Urbino by Titian, 1 4 8 7 /9 0 -1 5 7 6 , Uffizi, Florence 63 Olympia by Edouard Manet, 1832— 83, Louvre, Paris 66 (top left) Virgin Enthroned by Cimabue, Louvre, Paris, c.12 4 0 -1 3 0 2 ? 66 (top right) Virgin, Child and Four Angels by Piero della Francesca, 1 4 1 0 /2 0 -9 2 , Williamston, Clark Art Institute 66 (bottom left) M adonna and Child by Fra Filippo Lippi, 1 4 5 7 /8 -1 5 0 4 66 (bottom right) The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Gerard David, d.1523, National Gallery of Art Washington, Mellon Collection 67 (top left) The Sistine M adonna by Raphael, 1 4 8 3-1520 , Uffizi, Florence 67 (top right) Virgin and Child by Murillo, 1 6 1 7 -8 2 , Pitti Palace, Florence 67 (bottom) The P retty Baa Lambs by Ford Madox Brown, 1 8 2 1 -9 3 , Birmingham City Museum 68 (top) Death of St Francis by Giotto, 1 2 6 6 /7 -1 3 3 7 , Sta Croce, Florence 68 (bottom) detail of Trium ph of Death by Pieter Brueghel, 1 5 2 5 /3 0 -6 9 , Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 69 (top left) G uillotined Heads by Theodore Gericault, 1 7 91 -1 824 , National Museum, Stockholm 69 (top right) Three Ages of W om an by Hans Baldung Grien, 1 4 8 3 -1 5 4 5 , Prado, Madrid 69 (bottom) Dead Toreador by Edouard Manet, 1 8 3 2 -8 3 70 (top) Still Life by Pierre Chardin, 1 6 9 9 -1 7 7 9 , National Gallery, London 70 (bottom) Still Life by Francisco Goya, 1 7 4 6 -1 8 2 8 , Louvre, Paris 71 (top) Still Life by Jean Baptiste Oudry, 1 6 8 6 -1 7 5 5 , Wallace Collection, London 71 (bottom) Still Life by Jan Fyt, Wallace Collection, London 72 Daphnis and Chloe by Bianchi Ferrari, Wallace Collection, London 73 (top) Venus and M ars by Piero di Cosimo, 1 4 6 2 -1 5 2 1 , Gemaldegalerie, Berlin-Dahlen 73 (bottom) Pan by Luca Signorelli, c. 1 4 4 1 /5 0 -1 5 2 3 ,


original now destroyed, formerly Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin 74 (top) Angelica saved by Ruggiero by J. A. D. Ingres, 1 7 8 0-186 7 , National Gallery, London 74 (bottom) A Roman Feast by Thomas Couture, 1 8 1 5 -7 9 , Wallace Collection, London 75 (top) Pan and Syrinx by Boucher, 1 7 0 3 -7 0 , National Gallery, London 75 (bottom) Love seducing Innocence, Pleasure leading her on, Remorse fo llo w in g by Pierre Paul Prud'hon, 1758-182 3 , Wallace Collection, London 76 Knole Ball Room 77 (top left) Emanuel Philibert of Savoy by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1 5 9 9 -1 6 4 1 , Dulwich 77 (bottom left) Endymion Porter by William Dobson, 1 6 1 0 -4 6 , Tate Gallery, London 77 (right) Norman, 22nd C hief of M acleod by Allan Ramsay, 1 7 1 3 -8 4 , Dunvegan Castle 78 (top) Descartes by Frans Hals, 1 5 8 0 /5 -1 6 6 6 , Copenhagen 78 (bottom) C ourt Fool by Diego Velasquez, 1 5 9 9 -1 6 6 0 , Prado, Madrid 79 (top left) Dona Tadea Arias de Enriquez by Francisco Goya, 174 6 -1 8 2 8 , Prado, Madrid 79 (top right) W om an in Kitchen by Pierre Chardin, 1 6 9 9 -1 7 7 9 79 (bottom) M ad Kidnapper by Theodore Gericault, 1 7 9 1-1824 , Springfield, Massachusetts 80 (top) S e lf-P o rtra it by Albrecht Durer, 1 4 7 1 -1 5 2 8 80 (bottom) S e lf-P o rtra it by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1 6 0 6 -6 9 81 (top) S e lf-P o rtra it by Goya, 1 7 4 6 -1 8 2 8 , Musee Castres 81 (bottom) Not to be reproduced by Rene Magritte, 1 8 9 8-1967 , Collection E. F. W. James, Sussex 83 Paston Treasures at Oxnead Hall, Dutch School, c. 1665, City of Norwich Museum 85 The Archduke Leopold W ilhelm in His Private Picture Gallery by David I. Teniers, 1 5 8 2 -1 6 4 9 , Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 86 Picture Gallery of Cardinal Valenti Gonzaga by G. P. Panini, 1 6 9 2 -1 7 6 5 /8 , Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut


87 Interior of an A rt Gallery, Flemish, 17th century, National Gallery, London 89 The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1 4 9 7 /8 -1 5 4 3 , National Gallery, London 91 Vanitas by Willem de Poorter, 1 6 0 8 -4 8 , collection, Baszenger, Geneva 92 The M agdalen Reading by Studio of Ambrosius Benson (active 1519— 50), National Gallery, London 92 M ary M agdalene by Adriaen van der Werff, 1 6 5 9 -1 7 2 2 , Dresden 92 The Penitent M agdalen by Baudry, Salon of 1859, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nantes 93 Water-colour illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy inscription Over the G ate o f Hell by William Blake, 17 5 7 -1 8 2 7 , Tate Gallery, London 95 Adm iral de R uyter in the Castle of Elmina by Emanuel de Witte, 1 6 1 7 -9 2 , collection, Dowager Lady Harlech, London 96 India O fferin g Her Pearls to Britannia, painting done for the East India Company in the late 18th century, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 97 Ferdinand the Second of Tuscany and V itto ria della

Rovere by Justus Suttermans, 1597 -1 6 8 1 , National Gallery, London 98 M r and M rs W illiam A therton by Arthur Devis, 1 7 1 1 -8 7 , Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
98 The Beaumont Family by George Romney, 1 7 3 4 -1 8 0 2 , Tate Gallery, London 99 Still Life w ith Lobster by Jan de Heem, 1 6 0 6 -8 4 , Wallace collection, London 99 Lincolnshire Ox by George Stubbs, 1 7 2 4 -1 8 0 6 , Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 100 S till Life ascribed to Pieter Claesz, 1 5 9 6 /7 — 1661, National Gallery, London 100 Charles II Being Presented w ith a Pineapple by Rose, the Royal Gardener after Hendrick Danckerts, c. 1 6 3 0 -7 8 /9 , Ham House, Richmond 101 M r Tow neley and Friends by Johann Zoffany, 1 7 3 4 /5 — 1810, Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Burnley, Lancashire 161

101 Trium ph of K now ledge by Bartholomew Spranger,

1546-1611, Vienna Gallery 102 Three Graces Decorating Hymen by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1 7 2 3 -9 2 , Tate Gallery, London 102 Ossian Receiving Napoleon's M arshalls in Valhalla by A. L. Girodet de Roucy-Trioson, 1 7 6 7 -1 8 2 4 , Chateau de Malmaison 103 Tavern Scene by Adriaen Brouwer, 1 6 0 5 /6 — 38, National Gallery, London 104 Laughing Fisherboy by Frans Hals, 1 5 8 0 -1 6 6 6 , Burgsteinfurt, Westphalia: collection, Prince of Bentheim
and Steinfurt 104 Fisherboy by Frans Hals, 1580-1666, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 104 An Extensive Landscape w ith Ruins by Jacob van Ruisdael, 1 6 2 8 /9 -8 2 , National Gallery, London 105 River Scene w ith Fishermen Casting a Net by Jan Van Goyen, 1596— 1656, National Gallery, London * I 06 M r and M rs A ndrew s by Thomas Gainsborough, 17 2 7 -8 8 , National Gallery, London

Portrait of Him self and Saskia by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1 6 0 6 -6 9 , Pinakotek, Dresden I I 2 S e lf-p o rtra it by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1 6 0 6 -6 9 ,
111 114 Uffizi, Florence (top) Europe supported by A frica and America by William Blake, 1 7 5 7 -1 8 2 7

114 (bottom) Pity by William Blake, 1 7 5 7 -1 8 2 7 11 5 M ild e w Blighting Ears of Corn by William Blake, 1 7 5 7 -1 8 2 7 11 6 (top) M adem oiselle de C lerm ont by Jean Marc Nattier, 1 6 8 5 -1 7 6 6 , Wallace Collection, London 11 6 (bottom) Sale of Pictures and Slaves in the 117 117

Rotunda, N ew Orleans, 1842 (top left) Princess Rakoscki by Nicolas de Largillierre,

16 5 6 -1 7 4 6 , National Gallery, London (top right) Charles, Third Duke of Richmond by Johann Zoffany, 1 7 3 4 /5 -1 8 1 0 , private collection 117 (bottom) T w o Negroes by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1 6 0 6 -6 9 , The Hague, Mauritshuis


118 Sarah Burge, 1883. Dr Barnardo's Homes by unknown photographer

119 Peasant Boy Leaning on Sill by Bartolome Murillo,
16 17-8 2 , National Gallery, London 120 (top left) A Family Group by Michael Nouts, 1656?, National Gallery, London 120/1 (top centre) Sleeping M aid and her Mistress by Nicholas Maes, 1 6 3 4 -9 3 , National Gallery, London 120 (bottom left) Interior, Delft School, c. 1 6 50-55? , National Gallery, London 1 20/1 1 21 1 21 (bottom centre) M an and a W oman in a Stableyard by Peter Quast, 1 6 0 5 /6 -4 7 , National Gallery, London (top right) Interior w ith W om an Cooking by Esaias Boursse, Wallace Collection, London (bottom right) Tavern Scene by Jan Steen, 1 6 2 6 -7 9 , Wallace Collection, London

1 22 (top left) The Frugal M eal by John Frederick Herring, 17 9 5 -1 8 6 5 , Tate Gallery, London 1 22 (top right) A Scene at Abbotsford by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1 8 0 2 -7 3 , Tate Gallery, London 1 22 (centre left) W h ite Dogs by Thomas Gainsborough, 172 7 -8 8 , National Gallery, London 1 22 (centre middle) D ignity and Impudence by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1 8 0 2 -7 3 , Tate Gallery, London 1 22 (centre right) Miss Bowles by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 17 2 3 -9 2 , Wallace collection, London 1 22 (bottom) detail: Farm C art by Thomas Gainsborough, 17 27-8 8 , Tate Gallery, London 1 23 (top) The James Family by Arthur Devis, 1711 -8 7 , Tate Gallery, London 1 23 (centre left) A Grey Hack w ith a W h ite Greyhound and Blue Groom by George Stubbs, 1 7 2 4 -1 8 0 6 , Tate Gallery, London 1 23 (centre right) The Bay Horse by John Ferneley, 1 7 8 2-1 8 6 0 , Tate Gallery, London 123 (bottom) A Kill at Ashdown Park by James Seymour, Tate Gallery, London 1 24 Girl in W h ite Stockings by Gustave Courbet, 1 8 1 9 -7 7 1 25 Demoiselles au bord de la Seine by Gustave Courbet, 1 8 1 9 -7 7 ,


Musee du Petit Palais, Paris 126 (centre) Le Salon photograph 1 26 (top) Les Romains de la Decadence by Thomas Couture, 1 8 1 5 -7 9 1 26 (bottom left) M adam e Cahen d'Anvers by L. Bonnat 1 26 (bottom right) The Ondine of Nidden by E. Doerstling 1 27 (top right) The Tem ptatio n of St Anthony by A. Morot 1 27 (top left) W itches Sabbath by Louis Falero 127 (bottom left) Psyche's Bath by Leighton 1 27 (bottom right) La Fortune by A. Maignan 129 Photograph by Sven Blomberg 1 34 D6jeuner sur I'H erbe by Edouard M an et 1 8 3 2 -8 3 , Louvre, Paris (top) Jupiter and Thetis by J. A. D. Ingres, 1 7 8 0 -1 8 6 7 , Musee Granet, Aix-en-Provence 1 36 (bottom left) Pan Pursuing Syrinx 1 36 by Hendrick van Balen I and follower of Jan Breughel I, 17th century, National Gallery, London 1 37 (bottom left) Bacchus, Ceres and Cupid by Bartholomew Spranger, 1546-1611 1 37 (top left) Interior of St Odulphus' Church at Assendelft, 1649 by Pieter Saenredam, 1 5 4 7 -1 6 6 5 1 37 (top right) W ave by Hokusai, 1 7 6 0 -1 8 4 9 1 39 Carlo Lodovico di Borbone Parma w ith W ife , sister and Future Carlo III of Parma, Anon, 19th century, Archducal Estate Viareggio 141 Still Life w ith Drinking Vessels by Pieter Claesz, 1 5 9 6 /7 -1 6 6 1 , National Gallery, London 147 M rs Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough, 1 7 2 7 -8 8 , National Gallery, London 1 47 M arilyn M onroe by Andy Warhol 1 55 On the Threshold of Liberty by Rene Magritte, 1 8 9 8 -1 9 6 7


A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t is d u e t o t h e f o l l o w i n g p i c t u r e s in t h i s b o o k :

fo r p e rm iss io n to re p ro d u c e

Sven Blomberg, 129, 134; City of Birmingham, 67 (bottom); City of Norwich Museums, 83; Chiddingstone Castle, 52; Euan Duff, 142 (bottom), 148; Evening Standard, 36 (bottom); Frans Hals Museum, 12; Giraudon, 50, 57, 66 (top left), 68 (bottom), 70 (bottom); Kunsthistorisches Museum, 27, 85; Mansell, 39, 60, 111, 112; Jean Mohr, 36 (top), 43 (bottom); National Film Archive, 17; National Gallery, 20, 23, 25 (bottom), 43 (top), 54, 70 (top), 74 (top), 75 (top), 87, 89, 92 (top left), 97, 100 (top), 103, 104, 105, 106, 117 (top left), 119, 120 (top left and bottom left), 120-1 (top and bottom), 141, 147; National Trust (Country Life), 76; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 31; Tate Gallery, 98 (bottom), 102 (top), 122 (top right and bottom), 123 (middle right and top); Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 86; Wallace Collection, 71 (top and bottom), 72, 75, 99, 116 (top), 121 (top and bottom); Walker Art Gallery, 99 (bottom).