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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

True or False: Unsigned paintings usually sell for less?


Why is a signature so important?  It provides authenticity to the painting, recognition for the artist, and identification if a question of "is this the genuine article?" comes up. The artist’s signature on a painting is as if the artist is guaranteeing that this is his or her own work. Call it the artist's own personal advertisement. In addition, an unsigned work leaves an opening for forgery or perhaps a “bait ‘n switch” to occur.


I was doing some online research recently when I came across one of my paintings in a collection. Luckily it was signed, but still open for someone else to download a copy. Since none of us can prevent this sort of thing from happening, we are vulnerable to theft. Many social sites do not have encryption available on their sites to safeguard your artwork.

I’ve also had my blog columns lifted and placed on someone else’s blog without my permission. Sometimes they give you credit and sometimes your name is so small that viewers may assume that the owner of the blog wrote the article. Your intellectual property is at risk even though you declare that copyright laws are in place. This puts every artist, writer, and musician at the mercy of those who must police this kind of plagiarism.

"Brown Thrasher" 20 x 16 oil on canvas 
Sometimes an unsigned painting may be recognized by the style of the brush marks and the subject of composition. Professional galleries and authorized experts may be qualified to make that determination; otherwise, it’s just guesswork. Be sure you obtain an authorized person or gallery to verify the work for you.

One such gallery is Rehs Galleries, Inc. I’ve taken the liberty of quoting or paraphrasing from their newsletter archives, August 2006:

“Do your research. Many so-called experts only claim they are experts” For that reason, Rehs advises that when you purchase a painting you should buy one that is signed so that your painting will be easier to sell in the future and there will be no doubts as to its authenticity.

"Sand hill Crane, foraging" oil on panel
Why on earth wouldn’t an artist sign a painting?

  • They may have simply forgotten.
  • The painting may have been part of a collection that was not for sale at the time.
  • If the artist normally signs his or her paintings, the one without a signature may be an anomaly and may not retain its value unless authorized by a gallery or a professional in this field.
  • Be consistent in how your signature looks; it should be recognizable.
  •  A buyer may request that the artist sign on the back of the painting, instead.
  • After the death of the artist, an Estate Stamp may be used to identify unsigned artwork.
If you would like to read more from this article, connect to this link: Rehs Galleries, Inc.

True or False: Unsigned paintings usually sell for less?

Answer:  False.  If the painting is either “Estate Stamped” or authorized by an accredited authority, the painting will retain its value.

Want some suggestions on where and how to sign your paintings. Here are two simple videos that stress what’s important:

1.    Use a small liner brush
2.    Use soft color to blend in with the painting
3.    Acrylic paint that puddles, but does not run
4.    Avoid “center of interest” side
5.    Don’t let signature distract

The videos below help illustrate these key factors.