Who's the painter who wasn't able to finish a painting?
May 22, 2014 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I heard this story once, probably apocryphal, of this painter who would never consider a work finished, and his dealer had to break into his studio to get the paintings out so the artist would stop working on them before they were ruined. Does anyone know know who this story is about?
posted by gertzedek to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is not exactly what you're asking for, but FWIW the first thing your question reminded me of was this monologue in the play/film Six Degrees of Separation:
How easy it is for a painter to lose a painting. He paints and paints—works on a canvas for months—and then, one day, he loses it. Loses the structure, loses the sense of it. You lose the painting.

I remembered asking my kid's second-grade teacher: Why are all your students geniuses? Look at the first grade: blotches of green and black. The third grade: camouflage. But your grade, the second grade: Matisses, every one. You've made my child a Matisse. Let me study with you. Let me into the second grade. What is your secret?

[Teacher:] I don't have any secret. I just know when to take their drawings away from them.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 2:02 PM on May 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Scene from The Agony and the Ecstasy?

" "When will you make an end?" The Pope-shouts often to the man on the scaffold above."

The Mad Magazine parody is worth seeking out, as well.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:20 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

That sounds a heck of a lot like Albert Pinkham Ryder.
posted by bearwife at 5:07 PM on May 22, 2014

This is probably not quite what you're looking for, but Balzac's "Unfinished Masterpiece" is one of his better-known pieces. Beyond its literary status, various artists (including Picasso) have produced illustrations, and so forth.
posted by mr. digits at 6:20 PM on May 22, 2014

(see also: Zola's 'The Masterpiece', but again, really I'm probably just promoting some solid 19th-century French lit.)
posted by mr. digits at 6:21 PM on May 22, 2014

Jay DeFeo futzed with The Rose for years. They had to knock a wall out to remove it.
posted by Scram at 7:48 PM on May 22, 2014

I can't answer your question but I've heard this story too...!
posted by The otter lady at 10:58 PM on May 22, 2014

Here are a couple that spring to mind:
Pierre Bonnard never considered his work done; his dealer would take the paintings away from him.

"The Mystery of Picasso" is a Renior film where P ruins a quite a few of his paintings by overworking them, while narrating his frustration.

Robert Rauchenberg did a series called "The White Paintings" and gave one to John Cage. Rauch came into Cage's dwelling while he was not home, took the painting off the wall, and kept working on the painting until the original surface was completely obliterated.
posted by effluvia at 6:26 AM on May 23, 2014

Art dealers also took and sold unfinished paintings from Basquiat's studio against his wishes when demand for his work exploded.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 7:57 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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