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Posts Tagged ‘incomplete paintings’

Portrait of George Washington, or, The Athenaeum, 1796. Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Oil on canvas, 39.76 × 34.65 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

What exactly constitutes a finished work of art? Is it when an artist deems the work is complete? Does a signature mean they have “signed off” on it? What if the completion of a work was prevented by circumstances outside of the artist’s control, such as death? If left incomplete, should it not be displayed? Or do incomplete paintings show us another facet of an artist’s skill?

The emergence of Impressionism during the nineteenth-century challenged the traditional criteria for a finished work. Impressionists were criticized for their loose brushstrokes, dash-like preliminary sketches, and the unfinished look of their canvases. “To attract the attention of his or her contemporaries and to survive in the historical canon, an artist needed to create a personal identity rather than imitate a formulaic style, even if self-reliance and resistance to tradition were regarded as intransigent.”[1] Artists strived to identify their individual style through exhibiting works the historical canon would have regarded as incomplete. Is it valid to argue that a work is unfinished if the artist feels it is complete? (more…)

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