8 Great Unfinished Masterpieces


Some creators say a work of art is never finished, merely abandoned. Others would point out that seriously, these aren’t finished.

1. The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer’s tale promises two stories by pilgrims on the way to Canterbury, and another two stories on the way back home. But you never read those stories in high school English because Chaucer never got around to finishing them. Scholars blame Chaucer’s busy business life—he worked at the Port of London, moved to Kent to be the Justice of Peace, later worked as a member of Kent’s parliament, and then shuttled back to London as a clerk for the King.

2. Mozart’s Requiem

Mozart died while penning the Requiem. Since he received only half the payment for the composition up-front, his wife tried hiring someone else to secretly finish the piece so she could collect the rest of the money. It was eventually finished by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, and has since undergone many other revisions.

3. The Brothers Karamazov

Anyone who’s read Dostoyevsky’s philosophical tome may think it’s long enough. But it was supposed to be just “Part One” of a larger work called, The Life of a Great Sinner. But a few months after finishing Brothers, Dostoyevsky gave up the ghost. We can only assume his funeral-goers ate pancakes afterward.

4. David/Apollo

Scholars can’t agree whether Michelangelo’s sculptural creation is a David or an Apollo—but they all agree that, for whatever reason, it wasn’t finished. They’re not sure why.

5. Raphael’s Transfiguration

Although it’s considered one of his best works, Raphael left 16 sections of the painting unfinished when he died. Assistants had to finish some of the figures at the lower left.

6. The portrait of Franklin D Roosevelt

The watercolor by Elizabeth Shoumatoff was painted on April 12, 1945 at Roosevelt’s Georgia retreat, the Little White House. The duo took a break for lunch, where the President complained, “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head.” He slumped in his chair and was soon declared dead from a stroke. Shoumatoff later finished a second version, but the original remains incomplete.

7. The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

The towering church in upper Manhattan is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s complete. Construction began in 1892 and was on-again, off-again. It’s still missing its spires.

8. Coleridge’s Kubla Khan

The story goes that Coleridge took some laudanum, fell asleep, and dreamed up the poem in its entirety. He woke in a doped-up stupor and started scribbling. But he was interrupted before he could finish and had to leave for an hour on business. When Coleridge returned to work on the poem, his inspiration—and his buzz—was gone.

Kids Can Join Children's Book Author Mo Willems for Daily "Lunch Doodles" on YouTube

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

For children interested in taking drawing lessons, there are few better teachers than Mo Willems. The bestselling author and illustrator has been charming young readers for years with his Pigeon picture book series. Now, from the Kennedy Center, where he's currently the artist-in-residence, Willems is hosting daily "Lunch Doodles" videos that viewers can take part in wherever they are. New lessons are posted to the Kennedy Center's YouTube channel each weekday at 1:00 p.m. EST.

With the novel coronavirus outbreak closing schools across the country, many kids are now expected to continue their education from home. For the next several weeks, Willems will be sharing his time and talents with bored kids (and their overworked parents) in the form of "Lunch Doodles" episodes that last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. In the videos, Willems demonstrates drawing techniques, shares insights into his process, and encourages kids to come up with stories to go along with their creations.

"With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves in new circumstances, I have decided to invite everyone into my studio once a day for the next few weeks," Willems writes for the center's blog. "Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons. We are going to doodle together and explore ways of writing and making."

If kids don't want to doodle during lunch, the videos will remain on YouTube for them to tune in at any time. The Kennedy Center is also publishing downloadable activity pages to go with each episode on its website [PDF]. For more ways to entertain children in quarantine or isolation, check out these livestreams from zoos, cultural institutions, and celebrities.

Dreaming of Your Favorite City? This Website Will Create a Personalized Haiku Poem About It for You

OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
vladystock/iStock via Getty Images

You no longer need to spend all your free time struggling to capture the vibe of your favorite city in a few carefully chosen syllables—OpenStreetMap Haiku will do it for you.

The site, developed by Satellite Studio, uses the information from crowdsourced global map OpenStreetMap to create a haiku that describes any location in the world. According to Travel + Leisure, the poems are based on data points like supermarkets, shops, local air quality, weather, time of day, and more.

“Looking at every aspect of the surroundings of a point, we can generate a poem about any place in the world,” the developers wrote in a blog post. “The result is sometimes fun, often weird, most of the time pretty terrible. Also probably horrifying for haiku purists (sorry).”

The results are also often waggishly accurate. For example, here’s a haiku describing Washington, D.C.:

“The same pot of coffee
Fresh coffee from Starbucks
The desk clerk.”

In other words, it seems like the city runs on compulsive coffee refills and paperwork. And if you thought life in Brooklyn, New York, was a combination of alcohol-fueled outings to basement bars and traffic-filled trips into the city, this poem probably confirms your suspicions:

“Getting drunk at The Nest
Today in New York
Green. Red. Green. Red.”

The website’s creators were inspired by Naho Matsuda’s Every Thing Every Time, a 2018 art installation outside Theatre Royal in Newcastle, England, that used data points to generate an ever-changing poem about the city.

Wondering what OpenStreetMap Haiku has to say about your hometown? Explore the map here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]