UNFINISHED ART?

Is a painting finished if it appears in an incomplete state? 

Recently I viewed the exhibit, “Unfinished, thoughts left visible” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It attempts to answer the question, is the painting finished? There are over 197 works in various states of finish beginning with the Renaissance to the present day. Some are truly unfinished due to the artist’s death. Others may have been abandoned for multiple reasons including dissatisfaction, political upheaval, or simply the patron stopped paying. Still others were intentionally left undone and signed by the artist. I found many pieces were left for the viewer to decide.

I was fascinated to see the revelation of the artist’s process. It was almost as if you could see their intent as they composed the painting. Cézanne asserted that experimentation and process were the main focus of his work over the end result. Picasso was influenced by Cézanne and would also leave areas of his paintings under painted. Below are a few examples:

Pablo Picasso, Harlequin, 1923, Oil on canvas

Pablo Picasso, Harlequin, 1923, Oil on canvas

Lucian Freud, Self-Portrait Reflection, Fragment, ca. 1965, Oil and charcoal on canvas

Lucian Freud, Self-Portrait Reflection, Fragment, ca. 1965, Oil and charcoal on canvas

This was an engaging exhibit with insight into the artist’s development of a painting. Whether the work is truly finished or not may be the artist’s intent or maybe the viewer’s observation.