When is a work of art complete? And when do further additions detract from the desired result? These questions lie at the heart of aesthetic theory and have preoccupied artists, critics, and collectors for centuries. The problem of "finish" is particularly relevant in the graphic arts, in which images are developed in stages and often distributed at various points in their making.
The Unfinished Print addressed this complex issue in a presentation of some sixty impressions in varying degrees of completion by European masters from the fifteenth to the early twentieth century, primarily from the National Gallery of Art's extraordinary collection of 58,000 prints. Landmarks in the history of printmaking by artists including Dürer, Rembrandt, Piranesi, Degas, and Munch provided illuminating examples in the fluctuating history of aesthetic resolution, inviting the viewer to look over the artist's shoulder as he develops an image through a series of working proofs and states to a point he deems complete.