Unfinished… Works from The Courtauld Gallery

Summer Showcase Special Display
18 June – 20 September 2015

  • The Courtauld Gallery presents Unfinished… Works from The Courtauld Gallery, the annual Summer Showcase which highlights some of the Courtauld’s outstanding permanent collection
  • This special display focuses on the theme of the ‘unfinished’ artwork, bringing together paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century that have all been described as ‘unfinished’
  • The display will run from 18 June – 20 September 2015
  • For further details and images please contact

The annual Summer Showcase highlights The Courtauld Gallery’s outstanding permanent collection by presenting new stories and ways of exploring its breadth. This year, curator Dr Karen Serres has drawn on the theme of the ‘unfinished’ artwork. The display will bring together paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century that have all been described as ‘unfinished’.

Although it may seem surprising to find unfinished works of art in a gallery, they have much to tell us about the creative process of an artist. A highlight of the display will be Perino del Vaga’s Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist, which offers a rare glimpse into the early stages of painting in the Renaissance. Some areas of the work have been skillfully and minutely painted, while others are rendered only by agile pen marks on the bare canvas. Showing the various stages of creation, the painting provides a fascinating insight into the interrupted artistic process, a process usually concealed as the artist gradually tries to erase all traces of activity.

A work could be left incomplete upon an artist’s death or abandoned because of his dissatisfaction with its progress. This was the case with Edgar Degas’s Lady with a Parasol: while some areas, such as the woman’s profile, are painted with great delicacy, others have only been roughly sketched. The canvas remained in Degas’s studio until his death, the artist perhaps hoping to complete it one day.

The unfinished, however, was not always the product of interrupted toil; it was sometimes deliberately invoked for its expressive potential. The Impressionists were often accused by critics of not completing their canvases and the display will explore late nineteenth-century works that occupy a more ambiguous territory. This will allow us to explore what it means for an artist to consider a work as complete and what happens when critics and viewers disagree. Paul Cézanne’s Route Tournante (Turning Road),which displays large areas of bare canvas, is deemed unfinished by conventional academic standards. Such rejection of academic rules contributed to Cézanne’s posthumous status among avant-garde artists of the early twentieth century.

The Summer Showcase will thus offer an unparalleled insight into an artist’s mind and process, as well as question why these ‘imperfect’ works were kept and collected at all.

Dr Karen Serres, Curator of Paintings, comments:
“This is a particularly fitting display for The Courtauld Gallery: it holds an unusually high number of ‘unfinished’ works because of its ties to the leading higher-learning institute in art history and conservation. Such works were considered an unparalleled way to learn about the artistic process and question academic conventions. It is the first time that the theme of the ‘unfinished’ work of art has been explored and it will undoubtedly be a revelation for visitors”.

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Notes to Editors and Ticket Information

Opening Times:
Daily 10am – 6pm (last admission 5.30pm)
Late Events: 26th March and 7th May 2015 (6 – 9pm)
Closed 25 and 26 December, last admission at 3.30 on 24 December
Tickets available from
Admission £7.00* (concessions available)
*Price includes admission to the permanent collection and a £1 voluntary donation to The Courtauld Gallery

About The Courtauld Gallery (
The Courtauld Gallery is one of London’s must-see art museums. Its collection stretches from the early Renaissance to the 20th century and beyond. It is displayed in the elegant setting of Somerset House, one of the city’s most dynamic cultural venues. The Courtauld Gallery is renowned for its unrivalled Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin and the largest collection of Cézannes in the UK. It houses a major collection of Old Master paintings and is one of the few museums in the country to display such a rich selection of early twentieth-century art. The Gallery also holds an outstanding collection of drawings and prints and fine works of sculpture and decorative arts.

The Courtauld Gallery regularly presents major exhibitions and special displays which are consistently acclaimed for their outstanding quality and originality.

The Gallery is at the heart of The Courtauld Institute of Art, one of the world’s leading centres for the study of art history and conservation. It plays an important role in the capital's cultural life and is part of London's Museum Mile.

“One of the world's great collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art”
- The Guardian

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