Consider the acclaimed painting by Matisse, Large Reclining Nude.
It is a landmark piece of abstract art. But what made it special was that Matisse documented the evolution of the work from beginning to end, taking photographs of the intermediate phases over the five months he worked on it1. It started with some realistic depth and detail, and ended up with an abstract representation. And the journey was visible.
And the culmination:
Matisse said2: “Supposing I want to paint the body of a woman: first of all I endow it with grace and charm, but I know that something more than that is necessary. I try to condense the meaning of this body by drawing its essential lines. The charm will then become less apparent at first glance, but in the long run it will begin to emanate from the new image. The image at the same time will be enriched by a wider meaning, a more comprehensively human one …”
Then there’s The Bull, by Picasso 3.
It starts like this…
… evolves to this…
… and this …
and ends up at:
In both these cases, you can see the exploration, but with a clear direction. You can behold not just the work of art, but how it got to be what it is.