Below is the second episode of Ways of Seeing:
This episode assesses the image of women in art, particularly the nude of European oil painting. Berger assesses the female ‘condition’ of voyeurism, whether it is her own, as in what society has taught her to observe or the way in which others observe her. The nudes, Berger says, are the criteria of how women are judged.
Kenneth Clark (in his book on the nude) says that;
‘Being Naked is simply being without clothes, the nude is a form of art’
In this episode, John Berger responds, and questions this, stating instead that;
‘To be naked is to be oneself, to be nude is to be seen as naked by others, and yet not recognised by oneself. A nude has to be seen as an object in order to be a nude.’
This episode suggests that nakedness is only a concept, for this, it provides the example of Adam and Eve, the apple reveal the concept of nudity to them, and for this the woman is blamed and punished, and this blame, or punishment, Berger says, is continued into European oil painting.
In these nudes, the woman is often painted with a mirror, and therefore the image is labelled as a symbol of vanity, yet we forget the male whom created the image, his hypocrisy, of painting the naked form for his own pleasure.
To be naked, Berger states is to be with out disguise, however, to be on display is to have the hairs and sinews of your body turned into a disguise of ownership.
Finally this episode raises the issue of the relationship between the image and the stranger viewing it. The woman’s attention in the painting is nearly always focused upon the spectator. They are displayed in languid forms, holding no power or dynamism of their own, simply passive, for the pleasure of the male gaze.
This episode concludes with the lasting question, do these oil paintings celebrate the woman with in, or do they celebrate the male voyeur? Is the sexuality within in the frame, or outside of it?
Berger, J. 2012. Ways of Seeing Episode 2. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZR06JJWaJM [Accessed: 10/06/13].