How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization

How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization

Conceived as a gorgeously illustrated accompaniment to “How Do We Look” and “The Eye of Faith,” the famed Civilisations shows on PBS, renowned classicist Mary Beard has created this elegant volume on how we have looked at art. Focusing in Part I on the Olmec heads of early Mesoamerica, the colossal statues of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, and the nudes of classical Greece, Be...

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Title:How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization
Author:Mary Beard
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How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization Reviews

  • Tessy Consentino

    Fascinating read on art and sculpture and how people from long ago memorialized themselves and others.

  • Lily Green

    Very informative and easy to read prose! This would be a fantastic addition to a 100 level art history class.

  • Margaret Sankey

    A beautiful and witty art survey, about one of my favorite subjects--people and how they represent themselves. What does it mean politically and socially to be painted "warts and all," or as a hundred foot tall, bare-chested incarnation of Ra? Beard carefully chooses pieces from around the world, setting them in context and revealing how they illustrate the culture's sense of self, power, gender and imagination.

  • Joshua

    How Do We Look offers the reader a question well worth exploring: how do humans use art to explain how they think and feel about themselves. This is a question stolen directly from an Intro to Art syllabus, but it is a question worth asking because human imagination is arguably the most powerful force in the known universe. It can literally impact the physical world as humans create visions based upon their experiences and perceptions and imaginings, and Beard takes her reader through the centur

    How Do We Look offers the reader a question well worth exploring: how do humans use art to explain how they think and feel about themselves. This is a question stolen directly from an Intro to Art syllabus, but it is a question worth asking because human imagination is arguably the most powerful force in the known universe. It can literally impact the physical world as humans create visions based upon their experiences and perceptions and imaginings, and Beard takes her reader through the centuries of the human experience to show how humans have channeled their imagination into creating some of the greatest artistic wonders of the world.

    How We Look is not always as in-depth as I would have liked, but Beard's works tend to leave the reader inspired to begin their own explorations. The value of a book like How Do We Look is how it can inspire new readers, or even experienced readers, to contemplate the purpose and function of art and remind us how art can impact our reality.

    Whether it's sculpting boxers out of bronze or literally carving a temple into the side of the mountain, human beings create. It's worth a moment of the reader's time to ask themselves where and why that impulse exists, and what they could or should do with it.

  • Katie

    I really like Mary Beard and her perspective on human civilization through her expertise in antiquity. This book focuses on the question of who are we when we are looking at art, not only how do we see art, but how does art reflect our gaze. Using numerous examples of ancient figurative art from the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Olmec, and Chinese she tries to find the role of the viewer. Next she turns to the religious structures from multiple major religions to explore where the gods are in the a

    I really like Mary Beard and her perspective on human civilization through her expertise in antiquity. This book focuses on the question of who are we when we are looking at art, not only how do we see art, but how does art reflect our gaze. Using numerous examples of ancient figurative art from the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Olmec, and Chinese she tries to find the role of the viewer. Next she turns to the religious structures from multiple major religions to explore where the gods are in the art, and where the people are.

    It is fascinating, provocative and well argued.

  • Akemi G.

    The premise of this book is intriguing. Art history often focuses on the artists, and sometimes their models, but seldom the viewers. However, as commissioners of the artwork, as art dealers, and as consumers, viewers determine the value of art and influence the creative processes with their preferences. It's especially interesting in portrait art; how we see ourselves, and even more importantly, how we wish to be seen--the cultural ideal--is manifested in the art.

    However, the book fails to dig

    The premise of this book is intriguing. Art history often focuses on the artists, and sometimes their models, but seldom the viewers. However, as commissioners of the artwork, as art dealers, and as consumers, viewers determine the value of art and influence the creative processes with their preferences. It's especially interesting in portrait art; how we see ourselves, and even more importantly, how we wish to be seen--the cultural ideal--is manifested in the art.

    However, the book fails to dig deep enough to make a point; it's just filled with interesting trivia. For instance, the naked statues of ancient Greece. The author points out it was probably inspired by the statues made in ancient Egypt, although Egyptian statues are dressed. Oh. Is that a mystery? When you make a lasting impression of your fellow humans, don't you want to make his image at his best, and for Greeks, that meant when the person was playing sports, and they played games naked. So the statues are naked. It also meant the statues were a shot in movement. In contrast, the best time for Egyptians were when he stood in front of the pharaoh, or dressed in their best clothes probably for special occasions like wedding.

    The author briefly introduces the terracotta warriors found in the tomb of China's first emperor, again without making any significant point but throwing questions casually; these were not meant to be seen, and yet so nice! Why? Well, no one knows ... (move on to the next chapter).

    (My humble opinion is that, for the ancient people, the underworld was as real as the living world; these warriors were very visible by the emperor.)

    I'll stop here. One of the stars is for the beautiful pictures.

  • Patricia

    This was accessible and interesting, which are two things I wouldn't often say about art history.

  • Rachel

    I read it. It happened.

  • Phil

    Sumptuously produced, it was an easy read in one sitting on a rainy afternoon.

    Mary Beard is a classicist of the highest order, yet this book was, for me, a prime example of overreaching. Her credentials as an art historian or critic are clearly lacking. Her statements are often pedestrian, and her ignorance of religion and art beyond Christianity and Judaism shallow.

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