Even after a painter has declared one of his works complete, it’s never truly finished—at least not when you consider the materials used and all the chemical reactions which could take place over time. Pigments change color. Corrosions occur due to neglect and various environmental factors. Canvases swell. Even the painting technique makes a difference in how it will age. The work is constantly evolving, and that evolving usually results in a less desirable piece. Depending upon how well it’s preserved and whatever restoration efforts might’ve been made, an older painting will look very different viewed today than it did upon its completion. It's as of Nature herself insists upon contributing to the work long after the artist has passed.
An extreme example of this would be the works of American Tonalist painter Albert Pinkham Ryder. Known for his moody, dream-like works which often depicting pastoral landscapes and mystical subjects, Ryder's approach to his craft unfortunately resulted in many cracks throughout his paintings, and in some cases his pigments have completely disintegrated. According to sources, he would work these pieces for years on end, carelessly applying layers upon layers of paint and varnish without allowing one to dry before the next. As a result, many of his works have darkened over time and are considered very unstable.
When viewing today's featured artwork, Ryder’s beautiful Moonlit Cove, located in the Phillips Collection, I can't help but wonder how it originally appeared upon its completion nearly 130 years ago. Some would say its visible cracks and darkening have helped to make this already mysterious piece even more enticing. I must admit, when setting my sights on a Ryder, occasionally I find its many delicate cracks and intense corrosions even more intriguing than the work itself.
As a bonus, here's his Cerfew Hour at the MET: