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Taking pictures

Peter Campbell, 3 July 1980

In Radin’s Studio 
by Albert Elsen.
Phaidon, 192 pp., £10.95, May 1980, 9780714819761
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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer 
Thames and Hudson, 155 pp., £25, April 1980, 0 500 54062 4Show More
Isle of Man: A Book about the Manx 
by Christopher Killip.
Arts Council of Great Britain, 69 pp., £9.95, March 1980, 0 7287 0187 1
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... or stone. Some see in this detail the physical expression of a kind of warts-and-all truthfulness. John Berger says in his introduction: ‘When I first looked at these photographs I dismissed them as derivative ... something stronger drew me back ... I like to think it was a recalcitrant response to their truthfulness.’ The truth he sees is essentially ...

Men at Work

Tom Lubbock, 12 January 1995

Looking at Giacometti 
by David Sylvester.
Chatto, 256 pp., £25, October 1994, 9780701162528
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... of art address the spectator in a way that particularly demands a first-person response. Thus, John Berger in Success and Failure of Picasso evokes the experience of three pictures from the Thirties like this. (The sentences are interleaved with the relevant illustrations.) ‘The effect is magical; it is as though we, looking at these ...

Balls and Strikes

Charles Reeve: Clement Greenberg, 5 April 2007

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg 
by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.
Lund Humphries, 321 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 85331 940 5
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... it, producing not only Rockwell, Guest and the Saturday Evening Post but also Georges Simenon, John Steinbeck and the New Yorker (‘high-class kitsch for the luxury trade’). With kitsch running wild, like the capitalism which propelled it, authenticity needed defending. For nearly fifty years, Greenberg shouldered the task, separating good art from bad ...

Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... and sculpture undermined art’s humanity. ‘Painting is made out of a love for the subject,’ John Minton repeatedly told his students at the Royal College of Art, in defiance of an abstract tradition that had resurfaced with Victor Pasmore’s 1948 abstracts. Pasmore became a leading member of the Constructionists: abstract artists who abandoned nature ...

Exceptionally Wonderful Book

John Sutherland, 6 October 1994

Knowledge of Angels 
by Jill Paton Walsh.
Green Bay in association with Colt, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 948845 05 8
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... player of the year would be depressingly more expensive than the best novelist.) Only once, with John Berger in 1972, has a winner been graceless enough to allude publicly to the source of the prize-money in black men’s sweat. Booker judges change every year and the one stable element is Martyn Goff, the éminence grise of the panel which chooses the ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... as though they meant it, as though they meant it to matter ... Samuel Beckett (of course), John Berger, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, Anthony Burgess, Alan Burns, Angela Carter, Eva Figes, Giles Gordon, Wilson Harris, Rayner Heppenstall, even hasty, muddled Robert Nye, Ann Quin, Penelope Shuttle, Alan Sillitoe (for his last book only. Raw ...

Figures in Rooms, Rooms with Figures

Peter Campbell: Bonnard, 19 March 1998

by Timothy Hyman.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, February 1998, 0 500 20310 5
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by Sarah Whitfield and John Elderfield.
Tate Gallery, 272 pp., £35, June 1998, 1 85437 243 2
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... of its maturity’, without trying to find validation for that style in personal tragedy, as John Berger apparently did. For Berger, Hyman writes, ‘the late nudes were the sole redeeming component in an oeuvre otherwise “intimate, contemplative, privileged”; it was the “tragedy” of his relationship with ...


Frank Kermode, 27 July 1989

The Pleasures of Peace: Art and Imagination in Post-War Britain 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 367 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 13722 9
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... goes more smoothly. We are given the necessary information about the likes of Hockney, Ted Hughes, John Berger, Germaine Greer and Noam Chomsky. Structuralism and Post-Structuralism (‘a logical enough outcome’) are briskly explained, Barthes, Lacan and Derrida rush by, Foucault and Althüsser get a rather breathless mention as part of the ...

Booker Books

Frank Kermode, 22 November 1979

... best-selling writers, their business is not in the main literary, and in 1972 the prizewinner, John Berger, made a speech in which he expressly deplored what he regarded as the exploitative nature of the donor’s principal interest; indeed he gave half his prize to a revolutionary movement. Other writers have shown some embarrassment but have not, so ...

Paintings about Painting

Nicholas Penny, 4 August 1983

The Art of Describing 
by Svetlana Alpers.
Murray, 273 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7195 4063 1
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... and compelling fiction – flourish in Holland in the 17th century? A simple answer is supplied by John Berger. The world in European realist art is ‘rendered up to the spectator owner’. There is an emphasis on the tactile, and the framed easel picture, conceived of as a window or a mirror, is also like ‘a safe let into the wall, in which the ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... with the arts. Elizabeth David, friend of Norman Douglas, is eternalised in the lovely icon of John Ward’s drawing, the epitome of chic in her companionable kitchen. M.F.K. Fisher is just as beautiful. Her most beloved husband was a painter, and her books are so instinct with upmarket bohemianism that it is no surprise to find her in a cameo role in the ...

At Tate Britain

John Barrell: L.S. Lowry, 8 August 2013

... the capitals of Europe. When I took on these attitudes I was writing a book full of admiration for John Clare as a local poet, and I was learning to admire Constable as, principally, a local painter. But to be modern was to be metropolitan; and to be a ‘local’ anything in the 1960s, even for musicians in Liverpool, was to have missed the bus to London. So ...

At Tate Modern

Jeremy Harding: Giacometti, 17 August 2017

... Sartre and Beauvoir, Jean Genet and others – though none under B for Beckett, and none for John Berger, who was cool at first, then much warmer, coming under fire from David Sylvester – another S – for disparaging Giacometti’s work in the 1950s, and then for revising his opinion after the artist’s death in 1966. ‘Head of a ...

Kiss me, Hardy

Humphrey Carpenter, 15 November 1984

Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Chatto, 266 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2908 5
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Watson’s Apology 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7156 1935 7
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The Foreigner 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 237 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2904 2
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... indulge in orgies of this: ‘We consigned to the flames or the waves one Gunter Grass, two John Fowles, a Nabokov, a John Berger, three Doris Lessings, a Gore Vidal, two John Barths, and the whole of Jorge Luis Borges.’ This impatience with literary artefacts means that he ...

Sheer Enthusiasm

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Zadie Smith, 30 August 2018

Feel Free: Essays 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 241 14689 7
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... reproduction of Balthasar Denner’s 1721 painting Alte Frau to a touching remembrance of the late John Berger to a dual meditation on ageing – ‘the great unsexing’, as she calls it, ‘the disappearance of gender, over time’ – and the unencumbered way her father thought about art. All this makes her ask of herself: ‘Who am I to speak of this ...

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