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How Do You Know If You Have A Real Painting?
Artstyle 22 Jun 2023

How Do You Know If You Have A Real Painting?

Every day, the contemporary art market bears witness to some of the most exciting and history-defining investments in the world. By the end of 2022, the industry’s turnover had reached sales figures just shy of $2.7 billion! Flourishing as it is, the art industry is no exception to the unfortunate reality that many counterfeit works continue to circulate amongst the masterpieces. Therefore, when it comes to purchasing art, it’s important to ensure that you are getting exactly what you paid for. Today, the Artsper team is here to equip you with our best tips and tricks. Our question to you: how do you know if you have bought a real painting?

1. Research the artist

Our first piece of advice to you, in determining if you have a real painting is to research the artist. If you can, it would be wise to find out about the artist’s background, artistic style, and to familiarize yourself with their previous works. For an extra stamp of validity, you ought to look for biographical information about where the artist lived, worked and studied. Has the artist exhibited their work in galleries or museums? This information will help you to gain a better understanding of the artist’s reputation and the value of their work. From there, you can assess the painting that you have bought according to the artist’s body of work and previous artistic style.

2. Check the provenance

Tracey Adams, (r) evolution 31, 2015 © Artsper
real painting
Tracey Adams, (r) evolution 31, 2015 © Artsper

Another useful means of testing if you have a real painting is by researching the provenance of the work. An artwork’s “provenance” refers to its history of ownership. A painting with a strong or, better still, a public provenance is more likely to be legitimate than one with a questionable or unknown provenance. Provenance can include documents such as bills of sale, exhibition catalogs, and auction records. As a rule of thumb, if the painting you purchased has a documented and verifiable provenance, it is more likely to be legitimate. The easiest way is to systematically ask the seller for a certificate of authenticity, in addition to your invoice. Providing a certificate is not compulsory if it is a unique work signed by the artist, but it is very important in the case of an unsigned work or multiple.




3. Look for the artist’s signature

Jérôme Mesnager, 162, 2022 © Artsper
real painting
Jérôme Mesnager, 162, 2022 © Artsper

Next, we’ve seen it from the great Renaissance historia, to the sprawling Surrealist visions of Dali. Many artists sign their work, and this signature can be an essential clue to determining the authenticity of a painting. Look for the artist’s signature and compare it to other known works by the artist. If the signature is significantly different, it may be a sign that you don’t have a real painting produced by that artist. However, keep in mind that some artists may change their signature over time, and so this is not always a reliable indicator. In any event, it is still worth referring to the artist’s mark on their work for reference.

4. Examine the painting’s materials

Alejandro Quincoces, La estacion de autobus, 2022 © Artsper
real painting
Alejandro Quincoces, La estacion de autobus, 2022 © Artsper

Another way to tell if a painting is legitimate is to examine the materials used to create it. Examine the canvas, paint, and other materials to see if they are consistent with the artist’s known techniques and materials. For example, if the artist typically used oil paints, but the painting you purchased appears to be acrylic. This may be a sign that the painting is not real. Talk to the seller to find out everything about the creation and the exact date of completion of the artwork. If you still have doubts after that, it may be useful to turn to a professional opinion.

5. Seek the opinion of an expert

Lastly, if you are still unsure if the painting you purchased is legitimate, another useful thing that you can do is seek a professional opinion. Art appraisers and art historians can examine the painting and provide their professional opinion on its authenticity. Keep in mind that this service can be costly. However it may be worth it if you are considering purchasing a high-value piece of art. Or indeed if you feel you have exhausted all other options on your quest to authenticate your painting!

Happy buying!

In conclusion, determining the authenticity of a painting can indeed be a challenging task. However, by following these tips, you can increase your chances of purchasing a piece of art that is authentic and worth your investment! Researching the artist, checking the provenance, examining the painting’s materials, and seeking the opinion of an expert are all valuable steps in the process. Be sure to check out Artsper’s selection of discounted works this month and pieces by master artists, for some inspiration for your next purchase!