Berger, John Peter

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Berger, John Peter

John Peter Berger (bûr´jər), 1926–2017, British art critic, cultural historian, and writer, b. London. Berger, who began his career as a painter, is best known for his art criticism. He wrote on art for the New Statesman for 10 years, but was particularly celebrated for his BBC television series and book Ways of Seeing (1972), which criticized traditional formalist approaches to art criticism and favored a more populist, sociopolitical view of art. His approach derived in part from his Marxist beliefs, evident in much of his work. His other books on art include Permanent Red (1960), The Success and Failure of Picasso (1965), Art and Revolution (1969), Daumier: Visions of Paris (2013), and two compilations, Portraits: John Berger on Artists (2015) and Landscapes: John Berger on Art (2016). Berger also was a prolific author of novels, short stories, poetry, plays, essays on other topics, and screenplays. His experimental novel, G (1972, Booker Prize), is the story of an apolitical young Don Juan's growing awareness of the impact of political events in the early 20th cent. on his life. Other novels include A Painter of Our Time (1958), King: A Street Story (1999), and From A to X (2008). His 40 years in a remote French Alpine village inform Into Their Labors (1979–1991), a trilogy of short stories, essays, and poems on peasant life, culture, and urban migration and the consequent loss of peasant traditions. Among his nonfiction works are A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor (1967), A Seventh Man (1975), on the lives of European migrant workers, and About Looking (1980). Berger's five screenplays include Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (with A. Tanner, 1976).

See his collected poems (2014); biography by A. Merrifield (2012); studies by P. Fuller (1980), G. Dyer (1988), N. Papastergiadis (1993), R. Hertel and D. Malcolm, ed. (2015); J. White, Revisioning Europe: The Films of John Berger and Alain Tanner (2011); A. Chandan and Y. Gunaratnam, A Jar of Wild Flowers: Essays in Celebration of John Berger (2016); T. Swinton et al., dir., The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger (documentary, 2016).

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