The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
When does a work of art achieve aesthetic resolution, and when does it fall short? Artists, collectors and theorists since the Renaissance have regarded this question as both problematic and central to understanding the artistic endeavor. For reasons inherent to the medium, prints claim a special place in this history. Over the course of several centuries artists were increasingly apt to retain and distribute prints at various stages in their making. Experiments with differing states and specially tailored impressions encouraged a fascination with degrees of finish in printmaking that challenged the very idea of aesthetic completion.
This exhibition chronicles the complex workings of the artistic imagination revealed by the unfinished print and the changing estimation of artistic process that it provoked. Despite its implication for the rise of modernism, this development has never before been considered across its full historical sweep.