The first part of the television series drew on ideas from Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction arguing that through reproduction an Old Master's painting's modern context is severed from that which existed at the time of its making.
In 1972, British art critic and novelist John Berger collaborated with producer Mike Dibb to make a four-part miniseries for the BBC about the legacy of European painting from 1400-1900. Ways of Seeing was wildly popular, and Berger reconfigured his script into a book of the same title--a compilation of seven essays that eventually became a best-seller. Probably in part because it's required reading in like - oh I dunno - approximately 97% of university courses taught by left-leaning professors in the disciplines of Art, Art History, and English. A student of the humanities myself, I read this book more than once during college. While I appreciated the clarity of Berger's prose and the idealism that inspired it, I remembered very little of the book by the time my classes moved on to the next required text. I didn't really "get it," and I didn't really "care". However, when I watched the first part of the BBC series, I was overjoyed to learn that this was not a consequence of my mild ADD and severe laziness, but in fact, because Ways of Seeing is not just about art and spectatorship, but the medium of television itself--and that is much, much more interesting than pre-modern Western art...
Read more in Network Awesome Magazine