So, let's say you're at an antique shop, and you think you've discovered an abandoned Romare Bearden painting. How would you research it? How can you tell if it's phony? Do not fret. A Girl In A Museum World is here to help. I will not let you miss out on a chance to be a millionaire. It's highly unlikely that I'll come across a painting from one of the greats, but just in case, I keep these research tools nearby.
Here’s my quick guide to researching and appraising your art:
First, look for any signatures or markings.
Check the corner of the painting for a signature. Most paintings will have signatures hidden somewhere. You just have to use your detective's eye and look for it. Be aware that not every signature belongs to the artist. Some signatures or marks may belong to the previous owner or manufacture. There are a ton of dictionaries to help with maker marks. Here's a really good one:
- Katlan, Alexander W. American Artist's Materials: A Guide to Stretchers, Panels, Millboards, and Stencil Marks. Madison, Conn.: Soundview Press, 1992.
After you've discovered a signature or mark, you can search for biographical information with artist databases. Here are my favorite online databases:
Next, gather any origin information you can. Speak with the shop owner and ask for provenance information such as information cards, purchase history. Authentic work should come with an authenticity certificate. If not, do your research!
Check the back of the painting too. There may be some information on purchase history there as well.
Appraising Your Work
If you're interested to see if you can retire early with your newly discovered treasure. Here are some great resources to see how much your piece is worth:
Now, let's say you've done all of this research and you're still unable to find information on your piece, don't be discouraged. That means you've found a treasure unknown to the world. Preserve and keep it safe. One day, some information may arise.
Sign up for the Museum Gang Newsletter at the bottom of the website for an exclusive article on how to preserve your treasures coming soon.