Art – unfinished

“Art completes what nature cannot bring to a finish” –  Aristotle

Leonardo da Vinci is credited with the catchy quote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452–1519) Head and Shoulders of a Woman (La Scapigliata) ca. 1500–1505 Oil, earth, and white lead pigments on poplar 9 3/4 × 8 1/4 in. (24.7 × 21 cm)
Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452–1519)
Head and Shoulders of a Woman (La Scapigliata)
ca. 1500–1505 Oil, earth, and white lead pigments on poplar
9 3/4 × 8 1/4 in. (24.7 × 21 cm)

But I say….”along with our perception for beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.”

Intriguing, as a new exhibit features famous artists who’ve left works of art undone.  But to an untrained eye how are we to know the difference? Even unfinished works are breathtakingly beautiful and you have to wonder what they’d look like complete. Or at least what would the artist have liked us to see, feel and think?

With the Whitney now at home in the Meatpacking District, the old building has become an extension of the Metropolitan Museum and a chance for them to expand their contemporary collection. Now called the Met Breuer, the first exhibit is called “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” which is a compilation of unfinished work from artists throughout history.

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890) Street in Auvers-sur-Oise 1890 Oil on canvas 29 × 36 3⁄8 in. (73.5 × 92.5 cm)
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890) Street in Auvers-sur-Oise
1890 – Oil on canvas 29 × 36 3⁄8 in. (73.5 × 92.5 cm)

My question is how do they know they’re unfinished unless it’s really obvious?  I guess we’ll leave that to the experts and take their word for granted.  I’m so curious.  Even surviving works of Leonardo da Vinci that look finished to modern eyes (above) in some cases were apparently not.  I find this fascinating.

Running until September 4, 2016, the Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible exhibition assembles 197 works spanning the Renaissance to the present, with the goal of exploring the notion of what it is for a work of art to be “finished.” As the show organizers put it:

“Beginning with the Renaissance masters, this scholarly and innovative exhibition examines the term ‘unfinished’ in its broadest possible sense, including works left incomplete by their makers, which often give insight into the process of their creation, but also those that partake of a non finito—intentionally unfinished—aesthetic that embraces the unresolved and open-ended. Some of history’s greatest artists explored such an aesthetic, among them Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, and Cézanne.

 Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906) Gardanne 1885–1886 Oil on canvas 31 1/2 x 25 1/4 in. (80 x 64.1 cm)  
Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906) Gardanne
1885–1886, Oil on canvas – 31 1/2 x 25 1/4 in. (80 x 64.1 cm)

I never want projects to be finished; I have always believed in unfinished work. I got that from Schubert, you know, the ‘Unfinished Symphony.‘ Yoko Ono

Certainly intriguing… don’t you think?

The Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue










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