Sneak Peak:  The New MET Breuer Museum - “Unfinished” 

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Perino del Vaga - Holy Family with John the Baptist, 1528-30 

The Metropolitan Museum of New York is soon opening the MET Breuer to display "modern and contemporary art through the lens of history". It will open to the public March 18th but I was lucky enough to see their first exhibition early! When the Whitney moved to their new digs, their old building was bought by the MET to house their contemporary collection.  Their first exhibition, “Unfinished” is a fabulous collection of paintings from as early as Titian and Dürer all the way through the centuries, ending with Cy Twomby.  What a pleasure to see and read about each individual example of a work that is known for sure to have been left unfinished for various reasons (plague, politics, death, etc) and those that are speculated as to not being completed. Seeing for one's own eyes a window into the creative processes of so many great painters is awesome.

Merino del Vaga (above) painted in the workshop of Raphael.  No one knows for sure why this painting was left unfinished but it has served as  a prime example of  the process of painting in Renaissance Italy.  Some speculate he abandoned it after literally painting himself into a corner with the hand of St. Joseph on John’s shoulder, not leaving himself enough space for the rest of the figure.  I just loved seeing how he had sketched in Mary’s clothing and how he seemed to have used a golden brown base with such fine glazes of color.


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Michaelangelo Buonarroti - Studies for Libyan Sibyl, 1510-11 


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Leonardo Da Vinci  - La Scapigliata, (Head and Shoulders of a Woman), 1500-05 

Until I started reading a biography of Michelangelo, Michaelangelo, His Epic Life by Martin Gayford, I never really knew that he and Leonardo were alive and working at the same time and most definitely knew each other (although Leonardo was 23 years older and died younger).  According to Gayford they each expounded that their strong suit was the highest form of art - Leonardo and painting; Michelangelo and sculpture.  The little face of La Scapigliata is a strong argument on Leonardo’s side.  It is so heavenly, it is hard to put into words.  The exhibition has no unfinished Michaelangel sculptures, but it does have a page of little drawings.  The main drawing seems almost like a sculpture.  When people look at the statue of David or some other amazing piece, they don’t realize that it started with sketches like the one above.  The sketches do give the view a sense of his amazing marble carving ability.


Titian is such an amazing painter who was also painting at the time of Leonardo and Micaelangelo (10 years younger than Michelangelo), but in Venice. His style is so different from the others.  The difference may not be as evident in the painting below of a woman and child, but the story behind it is fascinating!  The portrait of the woman and child, left somewhat unfinished when he died was painted over by someone in his workshop to depict the archangel Raphael with Tobias.  Apparently they thought there was no market for such a painting. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the underlying painting by Titian was found. I know which one I prefer!

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Titian  - Portrait of a Lady and her Daughter, 1550


There is a very large “fragment" of a huge unfinished painting by Rubens that shows how he painted on a dark brown ground, building up the lights from there.  To see all his sketch and how he built up his colors is a real treat.

Peter Paul Rubens  - Henry the IV at the Battle of Ivry, 1628-30

It’s funny how you can always spot a Frans Hals! Imagine how his fresh lively brushwork must have caused a stir back in the early 1600s!

Frans Hals  - The Smoker, 1623-25


JMW Turner  - Rough Sea, 1840-45


I like this Turner painting better that a lot of his “finished ones”!

Vincent van Gogh never finished the painting below before he died.  It is so rare to see one of his rich surfaces with any bare canvas showing and it is fascinating to see how he started the sky.

Vincent van Gogh  - Street in Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890

A similar canvas by Matisse also has a patch of bare canvas at the top (right).  However, you can’t help thinking that Matisse wanted to leave it that way.

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Henri Matisse  - Chapel of St. Joseph, Saint-Tropez, 1904


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Gustav Klimt  - Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III, 1917-18

No such exhibition would be complete without Picasso represented and there are several of his paintings it this one.  One that struck me is Harlequin.  I immediately thought of a fabulous small apparently unfinished painting in the Louvre of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David (unfortunately not in this exhibition).  I can’t help but think that Picasso was thinking of David's fabulous painting when he painted this one.

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Pablo Picasso  - Harlequin, 1923

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Jacques-Louis David  - Unfinished Portrait of General Bonaparte, 1798


Here’s a fun Warhol!  Pretty sure this was left “unfinished” on purpose!

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Andy Warhol  - Do It Yourself (Violin), 1962

There is so much more to see than what I have shown.  I can’t wait to go back and see it again.  But, after being lucky enough to see it before it opens to the public, it won’t be the same viewing it with the hoards of people I sure that will soon fill the rooms!

© Trixie Pitts 2009