spotArt

spotCommercial

spotCommittee for a Workers International

spotGovernment

spotLabour Party

spotLeft and radical

spotMedia

spotNationalist and National Liberation

spotPro capitalist and Imperialist

spotReligious

spotSocial Networks

spotSocialist Party

spotSport

spotTrade Union

spotVoluntary & non-profit


All keywords


Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Art keywords:

Arts (27)

Cinema (24)

Culture (24)

Feminist (16)

Letters (55)

Museum (24)

Museums (9)

Music (43)

National Gallery (26)

National Museum of Wales (5)

Review (72)

TV (19)

Theatre (49)

Arts


Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 932, 18 January 2017: Resist Trump

Search site for keywords: Arts - Socialist - Art - Capitalism - Capitalist - Marxist

Comment: John Berger, 1926-2017

Remarkable art of a contradictory socialist

John Berger in 2009

John Berger in 2009   (Click to enlarge)

Niall Mulholland

John Berger, who has died aged 90, was one of the most influential arts and cultural critics of the last half-century.

A self-avowed Marxist, Berger made waves in the 1960s with his book 'The Success and Failure of Picasso', about the artist and the effect of capitalist commercialisation on his work. Berger's greatest impact was 'Ways of Seeing', a hugely influential book, and the 1972 TV series for BBC examining visual art.

He argued that Western art tradition since the Renaissance has been intertwined with the interests of the ruling classes and of capitalism. Capitalist social relations meant oil painting served as a status symbol of power and wealth. The depiction of women in art, in particular, was as objects to be possessed.

Berger came across Marxism while studying at art college, and these ideas richly informed his subsequent remarkable body of work, as art critic, novelist, poet, essayist, and writer for stage and film. He won the Booker prize for his novel, 'G', in 1972, and as a protest at the sponsor's origins in the slave trade, gave away half of his prize money to the Black Panthers.

Living for decades in a remote area of the French Alps, Berger wrote sensitively about the marginalisation of rural workers in an age of industrial capitalism, on the disastrous consequences of neoliberalism, and on the Palestinian struggle, among many subjects.

Berger's Marxism was not fully rounded out or linked to a clear socialist programme for the fundamental change of society. He presented some contradictory and confused ideas. He appeared to support Stalinist Russia's crushing of the 1956 Hungarian workers' uprising, but he sided with the 1968 'Prague Spring' revolt.

Not surprisingly, Berger's ideas fell out of fashion with prevailing 'postmodernism' in academia. But he did not renounce his ideals. To the end, he produced a valuable, radical, materialist critique of art.






Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Related links:

Arts:

triangleWelsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

triangleSkipton show proves draw of socialist art

triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

triangleCorbyn confirms 1bn for the arts

triangleRussia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

Socialist:

triangleHackney Socialist Party: Catalonia - Your chance to pose questions

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Fighting council cuts

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Catalonia - the struggle for self-determination

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: For a socialist, internationalist Brexit

Art:

triangleBad Art's Leicester event

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Art and Revolution

Capitalism:

triangleWhy I joined the Socialist Party: "I started to question whether there was a better way"

triangleWhat we saw

Capitalist:

triangle'Paradise' for billionaires - austerity for us

Marxist:

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: How do Marxists analyse the world?