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John Berger

            In Way's of Seeing, John Berger argues that original art wields uniqueness unachievable in any other form. He states, "No other kind of relic or text from the past can offer such a direct testimony about the world which surrounded other people at other times. In this respect images are more precise and richer than literature" (108). Berger's outlook upon art, which was shaped by years of schooling, teaching, and personal experience as both an artist and a critic, clashes with his Marxist desires for an equal society. Berger believes that "When we are prevented from seeing [art], we are being deprived of the history which belongs to us," (108) thus exhibiting his Marxist ideas that everyone should be able to experience art. Knowledge of history is not merely knowing events of the past, but it is an understanding of the outlook people had of their surrounding world. Berger feels that the opportunity for this understanding should not be a privilege held solely by the upper classes of society. Working toward an ideal Marxist society, reproductions allow everyone with access to historic art, irrespective of class. Berger struggles between elitism and Marxism because while his Marxist values cause him to want everyone to have access to art, his background in art causes him to feel that art loses its integrity, decorum, and information through the duplication necessary to provide everyone with access to art. .
             Berger's history with art leads him to believe that original art holds a sense of exclusiveness not retainable in reproductions. Berger illustrates one of his beliefs, "Original paintings are silent and still in a sense that information never is. Even a reproduction hung on a wall is not comparable in this respect for in the original the silence and stillness permeate the actual material, the pain, in which one follows the traces of the painter's immediate gestures" (125). In looking at the original, the observer is closer to the artist.

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