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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  131 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Liveright (first published September 2nd 2018)
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Margaret Sankey
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Lily Green
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very informative and easy to read prose! This would be a fantastic addition to a 100 level art history class.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Tessy Consentino
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read on art and sculpture and how people from long ago memorialized themselves and others.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
This was accessible and interesting, which are two things I wouldn't often say about art history.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is, to the best of my knowledge, a companion to the new rendition of "Civilizations" that aired on PBS a few months ago. If you have not watched the new series, I highly recommend it. Among others, this book primarily explores how we look at figures from a western bias, as well as how faith has influenced how we interpret and understand images.
As a teacher of art history, I found the series "Civilizations" extremely useful and engaging for both myself and my students. That being said
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I guess I was expecting a different read or maybe different format of this book.

This is basically research based on sculptures and art through centuries to show how human interpreted and had looked at art.
Different cultures and different traditions would show a person in a different way.
And depending on who was looking at the statues, they would see something different in the art.

The sculptures and art varied and were changing through centuries.
F.ex. the Greek statues often showed a man naked
Luis Cuesta
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. To star I wold say that Mary Beards book is a joy to read, too short for certain and packed with lessons quickly absorbed.Thebook is filled with historical details and Beard’s ideas about the images of gods are fascinating, especially with regard to the Ajanta Cave drawings in India, which force viewers to actively interpret their complexity, searching for truth and faith in the darkness. Even more thought-provoking is the Islamic use of calligraphy, ...more
Kimberly Schlarman
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very basic introduction to how we have looked at and engaged with art objects throughout the centuries.

This is a very quick read with short chapters focused on a specific place, object, or topic. Unfortunately, it is very Western-centric although Beard says she tried not be. Even when she discusses Olmec statues or Ajanta Buddhist cave art, she devotes a lot of time to how Western archaeologists and art historians viewed these works.

Despite this, I love how Beard approaches art history--with a
Dawn Rupert
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a beautiful book with many lovely photos of ancient people, gods and architecture. The book is divided into two parts. The first part is about the body image as seen in ancient cultures through their art, particularly their statues and paintings. Part 2 deals with religious faith and the portrayal of the gods. Some faiths would consider images of god idolatry. I loved the book but felt the narrative could have been deeper. It was a very fast read.

Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I greatly appreciate Mary Beard's writing, and this book is no exception. A light, enjoyable read containing art, history, and the context the art would have been seen in/what it would have meant to contemporary viewers. Fascinating food for thought!

I received a digital ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss+.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaway
While it was a good book and I did enjoy what was written and the art work covered. I was left with a feeling that something was missing. Since it is meant to accompany the "Civilizations" shows, maybe that was what was missing. Overall good, but somehow lacking.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Much more approachable than I expected. I enjoyed the information, but I’m not sure I came away with any particularly profound new ideas. She did raise some good questions that I think will stick with me.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
A good basic read on how we look at art. Reflects the importance of historical context, religion, and even historical perceptions on the role human form in deciphering and understanding art, especially of ancient civilizations. Great for those looking for an intro to looking at ancient art.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. I loved her approach, her writing style, her conclusion. Bravo.
Leena Dbouk
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I love Mary Beard and I love her writing! However, some of this book felt unfocused. I'd still recommend it though!!!
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Wanted to give more of a 3.75 star review. I really liked it, but it was just a little too little. Wanted more. Guess it would be better to have seen accompanying documentary. Love her though.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish it was longer! It was an easy read with beautiful photos! I really enjoyed the ride.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-books
Always something interesting in Mary Beard's books
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Some nice insights and I found the section on religious imagery very interesting, but I wish there was more to the book.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
It seemed to focus - negatively - on Kenneth Clark ! A bit frothy.
Dan Vine
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was very disappointing. Each time, she seemed on the verge of saying something interesting, you turned the page to find the chapter ending on some unsatisfying generality. Often there was an odd lack of historical context. One might want to excuse it on the grounds of the limitations of TV as a medium but then you set it alongside Clark's Civilization and the efforts of Andrew Graham-Dixon, Waldemar Januszczak and Beard herself when on her homeground.
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Winifred Mary Beard (born 1 January 1955) is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of Newnham College. She is the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "A Don's Life", which appears on The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements have led to her being described as "Brita