Unfinished... (Part II)


Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duchess of Huescar, by Anton Raphael Mengs (1775)
04/18/16 - Unfinished artworks question us about the artist, the place and the date in which they were made, but also cause fascination or disgust for what has no closure. In this second installement of our review of “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible” we will get into more recent periods, in which the notion of "ending" is more urgent and experimental. We move away from the time when artists accidentally left their works unfinished, to go to those that purposely adopt the aesthetic of the un-concluded. They question the rules of closure to promote open endings. In the 20th and 21st centuries, many artists allowed visitors to put an end to their works. Others used materiales that, with time, disappeared or changed their nature, completely affecting the original shape of the piece. 
Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory, by Paul Cézanne (1891)
Technique: oil on canvas.
Back to the 19th century, a painting by Paul Cézanne (France, 1839-1906) shows his wife at Aix-en-Provence. The artist first outlined the contour before applying the colors. In her hands, the strokes of the brush seem uncertain, unresolved.
General view of the exhibition
Edma, Berthe Morisot's (France, 1841-1895) younger sister, posed for the painting below. Some details demonstrate the informality of the scene, from the parasol in the right to the fan and light in the dress. These details, together with the loose and undefined brush-strokes, mark the aesthetic of the non-finito.
Reading, by Berthe Morisot (1873)
Technique: oil on canvas
Gustave Courbet (France, 1819- 1877) was a tireless portrait maker, but "The Homecoming" is a rare example, because the face is undefined. This painting was kept by the artist till his death and was never completed. However, the fact that he signed it demonstrates that, in his eyes, the work was completed.
The Homecoming, by Gustave Courbet (ca. 1854)
Technique: oil on canvas
The following unfinished version of the painting "The Third-Class Carriage", by Honoré Daumier (France, 1808-1879), offers us a chance to be witnesses of the process by which the artist completes his work. It is unknown why he never finished it.
The Third-Class Carriage, by Honoré Daumier (1862-64)
The following painting shows a seated woman, on Christmas Eve in 1931. It is said she was Pablo Picasso's (Spain, 1881-1973) lover, Marie-Thérése Walter. Her curved arms and defined torso contrast with her illegible face. The painting may evoke the psychological tension experienced by the artist because of the presence of two women in his life, his lover and his wife Olga.
Woman in a Red Armchair, by Pablo Picasso (1931)
Technique: oil on canvas
Picasso referred to "The Charnel House" as a “massacre”. Some say it evoked a Nazi concentration camp, while others believe that the artist was inspired by the assassination of a Republican family during Fascist Spain. Although the artist considered the work finished, it looks incomplete.
The Charnel House, by Pablo Picasso (1944-45)
Technique: oil and charcoal on canvas
On December 1911, the young Maria (Ria) Munk killed herself after writer Hanns Heinz Ewers broke up with her. Gustav Klimt (Austria, 1862- 1918), the most famous portrait artist, was commissioned a post-mortem painting of Ria. Klimt presented the family two works, but they were both rejected and, while working on the third version, he died. The schematic charcoal flower drawings, as the details in the dress, still incomplete, show us the fascinating development of his artistic process.
Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III, by Gustave Klimt (1917-18)
Technique: oil on canvas
To achieve the dramatic perspective of this self-portrait, Lucian Freud (Berlin, 1922-2011) placed a mirror on the floor of his studio. He started with the head and left the rest to our imagination. Unfinished works were normal in Freud's art. There's no explanation for this: in the case below, his attention was apparently caught by another work, so he left this one unfinished.
Self-Portrait Reflection, by Lucien Freud (ca 1965)
Technique: oil and charcoal on canvas
In the following (unconventional) portrait of Félix González-Torres' (Cuba, 1957- 1996) partner, Ross Laycock, who died of HIV in 1991, loss and decay play a leading role. Visitors are asked to take a candy from the pile till it loses its shape and integrity, diminishing in volume and weight. It's what happens to the human body when weakened by illness. The artwork get disintegrated and integrated again many times during the exhibition.
Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), by Feliz Gonzalez-Torres (1991)
Materials: candies wrapped in colourful cellophane 
Finally, Urs Fischer (Switzerland, 1973), known for working with the tension between the permanent and the perishable. The following artwork is an example of this, a process that involves building and destroying. A headless clay figure lies over a chaise longue: Fischer removed part of the material and then hand-painted certain details with violence. The artworks looks as in ruins.
2, by Urs Fischer (2014)
Several materials
In this exhibition, according to the curators, we don't see any previous or schematic work of the final artwork. With more than 2 hundred examples to illustrate the concept of the "unfinished", the exhibition is visually remarkable and worthy of the opening of the new Met Breuer. 

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