How Do We Look by Mary Beard

Staff Pick

Confronted with an image whose age, provenance, and purpose we don't know, how do we make sense of what we see? If "we" are part of Western culture, we’re likely to see what the classical tradition has taught us to see. As the world-renowned classics scholar Mary Beard shows in her beautiful How Do We Look (Liveright, $24.95), whether we realize it or not, we interpret, and often judge, a work according to how it compares with iconic pieces such as the Apollo Belvedere, which in the eighteenth century seemed virtually to set the standard for the civilized figure. While Westerners may still seek out works "fully understandable in our own aesthetic terms," things have changed a lot in recent decades. Beard's book, which includes the two sections she contributed to the new BBC series Civilisations—which substantially updates Kenneth Clark's 1969 Civilisation—focuses on images of the human body and images of divinity. Both surveys take Beard beyond Athens and Rome to Mexico, China, Cambodia, Turkey, and India; throughout, she examines the importance of context and perspective, traces arguments against idolatry, looks at the effects of iconoclasm, and rejects artist-centered criticism for one that puts “the viewers of art back into the frame.”

How Do We Look: The Body, the Divine, and the Question of Civilization By Mary Beard Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631494406
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Liveright - September 4th, 2018