Opening in March at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a captivating exhibition that examines “unfinished” artworks, offering visitors a chance to step into the artists’ minds and understand their creative choices.
One could suggest that part of what draws many to art is the desire to “know” or “understand” the man or woman behind the creations. Whether it’s through personal acquaintance and friendship or extensive research, there appears to be an unrelenting drive for art lovers to step into the creative mind.
Perhaps one of the best ways to understand the artistic process is to explore works left unfinished. To be sure, these works are halted during the realization of a particular vision, allowing audiences to muse upon the steps before this paused moment and what could have resulted.

Jacopo Bassano, “The Baptism of Christ,” ca. 1590, oil on canvas, 72 1/2 x 63 1/8 in. (c) MET 2016

Opening March 18 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” seeks to explore the unfinished works of some of the greatest artists in the museum’s permanent collection. Via the exhibition webpage: “The exhibition examines the term ‘unfinished’ across the visual arts in the broadest possible way; it includes works left incomplete by their makers, a result that often provides insight into the artists’ creative process, as well as works that engage a non finito—intentionally unfinished—aesthetic that embraces the unresolved and open-ended. Featured artists who explored such an aesthetic include some of history’s greatest practitioners, among them Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, and Cézanne, as well as modern and contemporary artists, including Janine Antoni, Lygia Clark, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Rauschenberg, who have taken the unfinished in entirely new directions, alternately blurring the distinction between making and un-making, extending the boundaries of art into both space and time, and recruiting viewers to complete the objects they had begun.

Jacques Louis David, “The Death of Bara,” 1794, oil on canvas, 46 7/8 x 61 1/2 in. (c) Musée Calvet, Avignon 2016

“The accompanying catalogue will expand the subject to include the unfinished in literature and film as well as the role of the conservator in elucidating a deeper understanding of artistic thought on the subject of the unfinished.”
To learn more, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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