Old Masterpieces from New York to Brisbane

Finally reached the end of the queue © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

On a sunny Friday morning, waiting to enter GOMA Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, I did not photograph the great long queue of people. However, there were no privacy issues, every single person was wearing a mask. Patiently observing restrictions, we were all determined to view the European Masterpieces exhibition on loan from The Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Once inside, after a quick squirt of lavender hand-sanitiser, directions from the highly organised gallery staff were followed, and metered groups were ushered through the necessary sign-in to enter a specially designed viewing area. I say ‘area’ but it was more like roaming around inside someone’s home. Admittedly a large home with muted lighting and grey walls but it was what hung on those walls that definitely became awe-inspiring.

The galleries were split into three groups:

1. Devotion and Renaissance

2. Absolutism and Enlightenment

3. Revolution and Art for the People

From Giovanni di Paolo (Paradise, 1445) to Claude Monet (Water Lilies, 1916) I have written a quick overview of my visit—and I only took a handful of photographs. There are 65 works of art on display, and so famous they do not need my documentation.

Deep down I have to confess that the age and history of many of the paintings captured my attention more than the artwork itself. Scary moments frozen in time, dramatic posturing, gloomy scenes were not the order of the day for me. I loved the works with life and action and, let’s face it, realism.

French painter Georges de La Tour’s work ‘The Fortune Teller’ (see main entrance photo above) finally made sense to me when I saw it for real. It’s not about the old fortune teller at aLL.

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I liked the ‘essence’ of Lady Smith (Charlotte Delaval) and her children George, Louisa and Charlotte, in this family portrait where she appears lost in thought while her children tussle beside her, glancing at the viewer. The portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (England) was commissioned by Lady Smith’s husband, a baronet and member of Parliament. Expressing cultural ideals of femininity and upper-class childhood, this work was a popular exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1787 the year it was painted.

I wandered past El Greco, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya, Rembrandt, Renoir, et al, and was drawn towards the sound of violin music. I left the dimmed rooms and walked into a brightly lit area where a lone violinist was playing. He finished with a flourish and an elderly gentleman and myself clapped enthusiastically but he appeared a tad embarrassed, nodded his thanks and exited the stage.

Directly behind me was The Studio, a long gallery set out with still life objects for the budding artist to create a modern masterpiece. There is a Renaissance backdrop for live models at special times. My eyes were drawn to the interactive displays and ‘paintings’ which brought the original art to life. Shades of Harry Potter, both clever and spooky!

The theatrette was not heavily patronised and after hearing the big bosses talk, I decided to seek out one of my favourite colourful artists and that is Paul Gauguin (France 1848-1903). His ‘Tahitian Landscape, 1892’ is smaller and less vibrant than I expected. A pleasant rural scene (below left) but not his usual tropical effervescence.

Claude Monet (France 1840-1926) and his sombre ‘Water Lilies’ wished me bon voyage and I was back into the real world.

As any person who frequents an exhibition knows, the exit is via the gift shop. This low-key store had some nice items but I wasn’t feeling it. The Library Café was looking inviting.

When I thought about the great works of art I had just seen, I pondered which one I could single out, which one I thought was the cream of the crop. The pleb in me rather enjoyed a large 1670 work by Jan Steen (Netherlands) ‘Merry Company on a Terrace’ for its rich vibes and domestic disorder. The original is bigger and brighter than the image (above right) shown here.

I think perhaps Covid-19 had something to do with the way I responded to the Met Masterpieces… and it was interesting to see how each century lightened the mood.

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To quote architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) “Respect the masterpiece, it is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

—–European Masterpieces—–

12 June 2021 – 17 October 2021
GOMA | Gallery 1.1 The Fairfax Gallery, Gallery 1.2, Gallery 1.3 Eric & Marion Taylor Gallery | Ticketed

https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/european-masterpieces

Happy galley visitors © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Jerry Seinfeld ‘Is This Anything?’ Book

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The comedy of Jerry Seinfeld is worth its weight in gold © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Comedy gold—-I have discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes, or tiny stories, are even better when read.  I can fully absorb the nuances leading to a smooth punchline, being taken by surprise, and bursting into laughter.  Fortunately in the comfort of my own home.


IMG_20200617_141756Of course, reading a Jerry Seinfeld book filled from cover to cover with his observational comedy written over five decades is best taken in small doses.


There is nothing truly personal in this book so don’t expect an autobiographical exposé of his life.  The best you are going to get under the heading of About The Author is “Jerry Seinfeld is a stand-up comedian.  He lives in New York City with his family.”

However, his life does subtly unfold throughout the book via his comedy routines, both on and off television.  I can relate to most of his observations.  Admittedly they don’t always mirror my experiences of life, but do cover a large, unavoidable portion of my existence as a human being.

Film Camera Lights Action MovieIt is fascinating to read through the decades from 1970s to 2010s.  Small bits, longer bits like “The Chicks and the Checks”, an ordinary event turned monumental.  And there’s the condensing, the immediacy of his transference, the reveal, the audience reaction he craves on stage. He couldn’t hear me laughing at the six lines of “Earthquake”.

If you’re wondering, the book title “Is This Anything?” is taken from what comedians nervously ask each other about a new bit they have written.

Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy style is a clean, straight-forward, perfectly paced delivery.  Always on the funny side, in his 452 page book plus index, he goes from being a young man to a mature adult with a family. Gradually the content and tone of the jokes change, a kitchen sponge talks, technology invades and “Device Dictatorship” rules but the entertainment is always there.

It is not necessary to have watched his television series “Seinfeld” but as I read, I heard his voice in my head.

I guess maybe that’s a good thing… 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

It is like being in a time machine with the years being told in very short, very funny stories: great to lift the pandemic blues.
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Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld