Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

208 × 156 × 27 mm
336 pages
60 illustrations, 24 in colour
14 Oct 2019

The End Artists’ Late and Last Works Carel Blotkamp

When is a work of art finished? Can it be complete in a mental sense? And who decides? In this highly original and wide-ranging study, Carel Blotkamp explores the concept and manifestations of ‘the end’ in art.

From the idea of a mortal end to the notion of completeness, Blotkamp describes a fascinating array of historical facts and myths as well as novels on art and artists. He examines the value of the last works of artists, considering how a particular end came about and how that might affect our perception of the work; the difference in the styles of artists in old age; unfinished last works and those completed by another's hand; and the mythology inherent in the reception of last works, taking the last works of Raphael and Mondrian as prime examples. For students, artists and art enthusiasts looking for a new perspective on modern art, The End is the perfect place to start.

‘Late style may be the visual expression of what it feels like to face the end – or it may be nothing more than a critic’s fantasy, a by-product of our hunger for hidden meanings, narrative closure, and valedictory statements. More likely, it is both at once: the subjective expression of an artist, viewed subjectively. That’s why lateness means something, if it means anything at all, only in our time-bound experience of late works. There is a specificity – a fragility – to lateness.’ — Max Norman, The New Yorker

‘In The End, Carel Blotkamp tells us that the last works of visual artists often have a mythology attached to them. Often this is read into the works retrospectively; we can perceive in last works the summary of a career, and the perfection of a style, such as Mark Rothko’s last paintings, which seem to be an endpoint of abstraction and meditative calm . . . Blotkamp suggests that unfinished paintings – and last works are often and inevitably unfinished – show a more human side to artists, especially, like Raphael, those who are lauded as godlike in their abilities.’ — Insights Magazine, Australia

Show all

Carel Blotkamp is Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Art at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam and a well-known authority on Mondrian and De Stijl. He is the author of Mondrian: The Art of Destruction (Reaktion, 2001).


One Death and the Artist
Two The Case of Raphael: The Transfiguration
Three Last Works, Late Works
Four The Case of Mondrian: Victory Boogie-Woogie

List of Illustrations