Munch's "unfinished" work: Setting a new standard in the art world

Munch's paintings have been criticized for being "unfinished". But in the mid-1900s these strategies became a standard. Why were these ideas so important and how do we perceive them today? Open for all, registration is requried.

The Sun by Edvard Munch.

Photo: BONO/Munch Museum

Deadline 5th November - registrastion is now closed, but the conference will be accessible through streaming to anyone (Adobe Connect) at this address: Some of the lectures will also be podcasted.

This open conference: "Finito/Non-Finito: Intentionality and the Modern Fragment", will bring together conservators, art historians and curators from Norway, Spain, Denmark, France, Finland and the United States.

The starting point is Edvard Munch's artistic practice, while the broader perspective focuses on how the random and unfinished are tied to issues of intentionality and reception of art.

Edvard Munch's paintings were, in his lifetime, criticized for a lack of "finish," and celebrated for the same characteristic in the post-War years. In the late 1800s there were many artists who started to use unfinished, coincidences and "wrong" as part of their artistic expression.

Around the mid-1900s similar artistic strategies became a standard:

  • Why were these ideas so important and how do we perceive them today?

Main lecture by Dr. Cullinan

The main lecture is by Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, art historian and museum curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, formerly employed at Tate Modern in London where he was responsible for the exhibition Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye (2012).

The title of his lecture is: "An Unfinished Art History". He points to the work of art from antiquity to our days, and artists such as Michelangelo, JMW Turner and Rodin.

In this matter he notes the following: “Unfinished works provide us with insight into the making, meaning and reception of objects of all kinds. Sometimes the dialogue between unfinished works spans centuries, collapsing time and encouraging new styles.”


08:30 - 09:00 Coffee and registration (outside of Auditorium 2, Helge Engs hus)

09:00 Welcome and Introduction: Mathilde Skoie, Director, IFIKK, University of Oslo and Patricia Berman, Wellesley College, US, and University of Oslo

09:15 Keynote: Nicholas Cullinan, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. An Unfinished Art History

10:15 Coffee

10:45 Morning session: Chair: Øivind Storm Bjerke, University of Oslo.

  • Tore Kirkholt, NTNU Trondheim. Decadence and progressivism: reception of the accident and the fragment in Norwegian art criticism in two different modern periods
  • Biljana Casadiego, Munch Museum, Oslo. Technical Approaches to the “modern touch”
  • Eva Storevik Tveit, Petra Pettersen, and Jin Ferrer, Munch Museum, Oslo. Edvard Munch’s Arbeidere i snø, an ongoing process

12:00-12:15   Summary and discussion (Moderator TBA)

12:15 Lunch

13:15 Afternoon session I: Jon-Ove Steihaug, Munch Museum

  • Anne-Estelle Leguy, Sorbonne University, Paris. Interpreting Helene Schjerfbeck
  • Marja Lahelma, University of Helsinki. Impossible Masterpieces: Munch’s Frieze of Life and Willumsen’s Great Relief
  • Ellen Egemose, Brandts, Odense, Denmark. What hides behind the void?: Some observations on the sketchy character of Jens Adolf Jerichau's paintings 

14:30  Coffee break

15:00 Afternoon session II: Chair: Øystein Ustvedt

  • Lars Toft-Eriksen, Munch Museum, Oslo. Chance, Edvard Munch, and the Norwegian avant-garde art of the 1930s
  • Raúl Fernández Aparicio, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain. Undefined Crowds. Non-Finito in Spanish Art from Goya to Antionio Saura (via Munch)
  • Susan M. Canning, College of New Rochelle, N.Y., USA. Facture, Trace, Improvisation, Allusion: James Ensor’s Contrary Path to Innovation

16:15 - 17:15 Summary and Group Discussion:

Reinhold Heller, University of Chicago

17:30-19:00  Reception at Georg Morgenstiernes hus, University of Oslo

Published Oct. 30, 2014 3:17 PM - Last modified June 2, 2015 12:56 PM