Captured by Unfinished

Anna Parsec

Anna Parsec

The idea of this blog is to share with you my thoughts, findings and discoveries throughout publishing my reviews and Art Stories.

I found myself in the National Gallery in London, walking from room to room, from purple street to blue, orange and, eventually, green street (the way of division of the art periods on the map). Seeing all the masterpieces is a very pleasant spending of time. But even this pleasant activity can become boring, tiring if you are not a professional art historian or if you are specialised in different art subject. Maybe boring is a wrong word but difficult.

That’s why when I face an unfinished canvas I feel such a relief. My first thought is that the painters are also humans and not only a talented creatures with perfect skills. Then I feel curiosity and interest. This unfinishness makes me to study the canvas. Now I see a question and not a statement. Now I want to interact. I start looking at the painting, studying all the details. The painter involved me into the process of creating this piece of art.

When the painting is flawless it’s not easy to stop your eye on something. But when you see the unfinished painting this becomes easier. Does the canvas stop being flawless if it is not finished? For me — no. It is still masterpiece but with a soul, interesting story, and it addresses a question to the spectator.

What question or questions do I ask myself? Why it is unfinished? Was it an intention or an accident? What kind of story is behind this painting?

Painting is a process and a noun, and both at the same time. Canvas is finished (Funny thing is that canvas by itself is just a blank tissue without any painting on it) . Unfinished painting can show the process of painting. You can see the stages and its origin. You can see the comparison of a fascinating brushstrokes and original canvas. They are together, so close, on one canvas. This is an enchanting moment.

In The National Gallery I faced several unfinished paintings. First of them was Michelangelo.

Michelangelo, 1475 – 1564 The Virgin and Child with Saint John and Angels (‘The Manchester Madonna’) about 1497 Tempera on wood

The NGL states some possible reasons why it was left unfinished. But I’m not so curious why. I’m interested what effect it creates. What I feel about this unfinished painting? Apart from the skills of Michelangelo, that truly attract my attention, I feel so fascinated seeing perfectly finished fragments in close neighbourhood with barely touched with colour pits. What colours it would be? What were the stages?

Then Three men and a boy.

The Le Nain Brothers, Antoine (about 1600 – 48), Louis (about 1603 – 48), Mathieu (about 1607 – 77) Three Men and a Boy about 1647-8 Oil on canvas

This painting shows 2 or 3 unrelated pictures: tree men, a boy and some drapery details. My question is “Does the painter is left handed and that’s why it started painting from left to right?” I feel good that I can see all the faces.

And then “The Family of Darius before Alexander” by Paolo Veronese, 1565-7,

Paolo Veronese, 1528 – 1588 The Family of Darius before Alexander 1565-7 Oil on canvas

Here I see a finished work at first. But then I wonder if the horse should be intentionally so transparent. All the background doesn’t seem to be as realistic as the foreground. I feel as if this is an opera fragment with artists and painted decorations. Foreground is full of colours.

Captured by Unfinished