Unfinished... Works From the Courtauld Gallery
18 June – 20 September 2015
This year’s summer showcase brings together paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture from the Renaissance to the early 20th century, all described as 'unfinished'.
Drawn from the gallery's permanent collection, these incomplete works have each been left at their own unique stage of creation. Seen together they provide an illuminating insight into the creative process of an artist.
A work could be left unfinished for a multitude of reasons, as this show explores. The artist may have died mid-process or purposefully abandoned the piece because of their dissatisfaction with its progress. For example Edgar Degas’s Lady with a Parasol – in some areas painted with great delicacy, in others only roughly sketched – remained in his studio until his death, suggesting perhaps he hoped to complete it one day.
It is also the case that artworks were sometimes deliberately left in an 'unfinished' state; the Impressionists were often accused by critics of not completing their canvases. Paul Cézanne’s Route Tournante (Turning Road) displays large areas of bare canvas, deeming it incomplete by conventional academic standards of the time. Today however, it is seen as a signifier of his avant-garde style.
Perino del Vaga’s Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist offers a rare glimpse into the early stages of painting in the Renaissance. While artists of this period usually went to great length to cover up all traces of their process, here they are exposed; some areas of the work have been skillfully and minutely painted, while others are only pen marks on the bare canvas.