Thomas Bernhard's "Old Masters" drawn by Nicolas Mahler

A Graphic Novel for Museum Freaks

Reger, a philosopher of music, spends every second day in the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna. There he sits, like a statue himself, in the Bordone hall and stares for hours at a Tintoretto. You would assume that he loves art and especially this painter, but far from it! He hates every single artwork. To read his scornful remarks about art in general makes this graphic novel a reading pleasure because it is refreshing how he breaks the taboo of not being allowed to criticise the „Old Masters“. But behind Reger’s condemnation his love for art shines through and after he has savaged not only the fine arts but also literature he finally reveals the true reason for spending so many hours on this certain bench in front of the Tintoretto...

© Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin 2011

This bench and all the other typical items of a museum – frames, cordons, stairs and floor mosaics – are taken seriously in the drawings of Nicolas Mahler as if they were actors in a play. He uses them elaborately to demonstrate the insights and art criticism of the protagonist. And it really makes fun to look at his pictures of the famous paintings especially because he concentrates on the most important features. Therefore his Tintoretto looks indeed quite poor and his Madonna – which is critised by Reger for being fragmentary – looks, well, fragmentary.

(There is nothing you could admire, Reger said yesterday. Nothing/at/all.)
© Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin 2011

Bernhard’s novel which was the basis for the graphic novel is also available in English, published by Penguin. But watch out! If you like it and want to visit on your next trip to Vienna the famous bench in the Bordone hall – this hall never existed.

Thomas Bernhard, Alte Meister, Komödie, gezeichnet von Mahler, Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin, 2011


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