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Release Date: April 27, 2001

"The Unfinished Print" Examines Creative Strategy in Printmaking through Works by Rembrandt, Piranesi, Degas, Munch, and Others

Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art's exhibition, The Unfinished Print, investigates the question of aesthetic resolution in European printmaking from the 15th- to the early 20th century. Approximately 100 works in various stages of completion by such artists as Hendrik Goltzius, Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch reveal the importance of artistic process in the history of printmaking. The exhibition is on view in the West Building, Prints and Drawings Galleries, from 3 June through 7 October 2001.

The exhibition opens in conjunction with Jasper Johns: Prints from Four Decades and American Naive Paintings, which will be on view during the same period in adjacent galleries.

"The breadth and depth of the Gallery's rich collection of prints is wonderfully explored in this installation, which follows the evolution of printed images by major European artists from the Renaissance onward," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.

The question of when a work of art achieves aesthetic resolution is central to the history of art and has special implications for printmaking. An artist working on plate will normally take "proof" impressions along the way to check its progress, allowing the viewer to trace the thinking and rethinking involved in the making of any work of art. However proof states establish an exact record of the actual image in process. Amplified by experiments with varying states and differing impressions, printmakers gradually cultivated an interest in this distinctive aspect of their trade.

The exhibition begins with prints from the Renaissance, continuing on to preliminary landmark prints by Hendrik Goltzius and Anthony van Dyck. More than 25 works by Rembrandt unveil the full spectrum of possibilities for interpreting the unfinished print in all its complexity. The refined rococo taste for proof states originating within the circle of Antoine Watteau, and the fractured architectural visions of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, reflect the radical divisions of taste in the 18th century. A romantic fascination with artistic process as a means of conveying private meaning emerged in the 19th century in a series of intensely personal etchings of by Charles Meryon.

An inventive obsession with technical process, extending to the revival of the monotype, revolutionized the creative force of printmaking in Paris during the late 19th- and early 20th centuries. The works of Vicomte Lepic, Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Jacques Villon, Edvard Munch, and Paul Gauguin illustrate the profound importance of the unfinished print for the genesis of European modernism.

Curator and Catalogue

The exhibition is curated by Peter Parshall, curator of old master prints for the National Gallery of Art, Washington. An illustrated publication including three essays treating various dimensions of the topic is available for $29.95 (soft cover) and $45.00 (hardcover) in the Gallery Shops and through the Web site at To order by phone call (202) 842-6002.

General Information

The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are at all times free to the public. They are located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. For information call (202) 737-4215 or visit the Gallery's Web site at Follow the Gallery on Facebook at, Twitter at, and Instagram at

Visitors will be asked to present all carried items for inspection upon entering. Checkrooms are free of charge and located at each entrance. Luggage and other oversized bags must be presented at the 4th Street entrances to the East or West Building to permit x-ray screening and must be deposited in the checkrooms at those entrances. For the safety of visitors and the works of art, nothing may be carried into the Gallery on a visitor's back. Any bag or other items that cannot be carried reasonably and safely in some other manner must be left in the checkrooms. Items larger than 17 by 26 inches cannot be accepted by the Gallery or its checkrooms.
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