Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist, 1528 - 37 by Perino del Vaga

Unfinished…Works from The Courtauld Gallery

We always love visiting the Courtauld Gallery, with its outstanding collection of paintings, particularly from the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist eras. And this, the Gallery’s Summer Showcase exhibition, is particularly fascinating. As the title implies, it presents artworks that are unfinished. Of course, if you’re an art historian, it’s hugely interesting to see the process by which a Renaissance painting such as Perino del Vaga’s Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist is constructed, layer by layer, but we wondered if the show would hold much interest for us, as general art lovers. We knew the exhibition was small with just two rooms dedicated to it, and we thought we’d whizz through it quickly. In fact, we stayed there for most of the morning. It’s a gem of a show. For a start, the selection of works is first rate. There are paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures that date from the Renaissance to the early 20th Century by artists including Mantegna, Rembrandt, Manet, Cezanne and Matisse. And yes, it’s interesting to see the process by which an artist layers on paint, or first draws his composition, but what we loved most about this exhibition was to see, on canvas, the real struggle that goes into a painting, and how even the most fluent painters can’t always resolve their work. Monet struggled with his Vase of Flowers painting, for example, for 40 years, and no one really knows if he ever considered it actually finished. Some of the paintings on show, such as Degas’ Woman at a Window (owned by Walter Sickert, who considered it Degas’s ‘finest work’), were bought by other artists, which suggests how insightful it is to look at an unfinished work of art. Certainly we found it so, and really do recommend a visit to this wonderfully well curated show.

Unfinished...Works from The Courtauld Gallery
Until 20 September 2015. Gallery open daily, 10.00 - 6pm
The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, WC2R 0RN
£8.50 (which includes admission to permanent collection). Free for under 18s, full-time students and unemployed
020 7848 2526
— Daisy
24th June 2015