John Berger Biography


Birthday: November 5, 1926 (Scorpio)

Born In: London, England

John Peter Berger was an English painter, art critic, essayist, prose writer and a fiction writer. His fictional work on the alienation of the English urban life, sociological writings on the migrant workers who left behind isolated rural communities after they turned to the contemporary economic lifestyle and fictional work on European farmers who are now displaced economically and politically made him an intellectually stimulating writer as well as a politically controversial one. He started his artistic life by taking up painting, and his work started to be displayed all over London by 1940s. He then moved on to become an art teacher for a while, which gave him enough time and inspiration to become an art critic and he published many of his critical essays around the same time. But it was finally in the late 50s that he established himself as a fictional writer with his first novel A Painter of Our Time. This piece of work did not go down well with the political establishments but it raised the curiosity in the literary world. Berger went on to write more controversial and debatable novels and won Booker Prize award for one of his greatest works, G. One of Berger’s famous novel Ways of Seeing has been adapted as a television series by BBC. Berger was also a script writer and wrote many critically acclaimed movies.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In November

Also Known As: John Peter Berger

Died At Age: 90


father: S.J.D. Berger

mother: Miriam Branson

siblings: Jacob Berger, Katya, Yves

children: Jacob, Katya, Yves

Born Country: England

Poets Artists

Died on: January 2, 2017

place of death: Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France

City: London, England

More Facts

education: St Edward's School, Oxford, Chelsea College of Art and Design

2009 - Golden PEN Award
2011 - Groeneveld Foundation Award

Childhood & Early Life

John Berger was born in Hackney, London, to S.J.D. Berger who was an infantry officer on the western front at the time of World War I. Berger also served in Army for two years.

Thereafter, Berger went to the Chelsea School of Art and the Central School of Art in London.

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In the late 1940s, Berger established himself as a painter and his works started to be displayed in various galleries in London. He was very passionate about painting and contined to paint till the time of his death.

Berger took up teaching art in 1948 and continued it until 1955 and during that time he also tried his hand at becoming an art critic. He published many of his critical essays and reviews in the New Statesman.

With his painting abilities, critique acumen and strong opinionated political stances, time was ripe for Berger to publish his work as a writer. In 1958, his first novel ‘A Painter of Our Time’ got published.

1962-1964 was the time when Berger came up with more of his fictional work - even though his first novel was stuck into controversy. The Foot of Clive and Corker’s Freedom were his next books based on alienation of urban English life.

Ways of Seeing came out in 1972 and the same year BBC adapted it into a four part television series. Berger hogged the limelight for Ways of Seeing and his criticism of western cultural aesthetics was highly appreciated.

In 1972, Berger’s another book G. got published, which was a romantic satirical fiction, set in Europe in the nineteenth century. It earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and Booker Prize in the same year.

Mostly throughout 70s, Berger collaborated with the Swiss director Alain Tanner and co-wrote many scripts for movies like, La Salamandre (1971), The Middle of the World (1974), and Jonah who will be 25 in the year 2000 (1976).

Berger’s major fictional work during the 1980s had been a trilogy called Into Their Labour, consisting—Pig Earth, Once in Europa and Lilac and Flag

Some of his other famous works include, The Shape of a Pocket (2001), I Send You This Cadmium Red (2001), My Beautiful (2004), Berger on Drawing (2005), Hold Everything Dear (2007), Meanwhile (2008), Lying Down to Sleep (2010), etc.

One of his fiction novels, From A to X, published in 2008, was nominated for 2008 Booker Prize. He and Salman Rushdie were the only former winners to be awarded the nomination in that year.

Some of Berger’s well-known works also include, Bento’s Sketchbook (2011), ‘e louche et autres poemes (2012), Catract (2012)—a book subtitled as “Some notes after having a cataract removed”, Understanding a Photograph (2013), etc.

Major Works

Ways of Seeing is considered as one of Berger’s most important works. The series and book looks into the depth of traditional Western cultural aesthetics.

G., a fictional novel set in Europe, based on the life of a Casanova who eventually gains the political perception, is considered as one of his finest works. The book fetched him the Booker Prize and James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

Berger married thrice. He first married Patt Marriott in 1949; the couple divorced and had no children.  He married the Russian Anya Bostock in mid-1950s with whom he had two children. The couple parted ways in mid-1970s. He then married Beverly Bancroft. The couple had one child and Beverly died in 2013.


John Berger died on January 2, 2017, at his home in Antony, France. He was 90. 

In 1962, this famous English novelist, poet and painter went in self imposed exile in France as he was frustrated with coldness of England’s urban life.
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