Authentication and Evaluation of Paintings


What is the condition of the painting? [1]

Some tips.

If the painting is on canvas and there is no paper behind the canvas, check the back of the canvas for very small holes, patches, or repairs that are not visible from the front side. Then take the painting outdoors and hold it up to the bright sunlight looking through the back side of the canvas. Cracks in the surface and other defects will show up that you are unable to see indoors looking at either the front or back of the painting.
If you look at the front surface of the painting with a safe ultraviolet or "black" light in a darkened room you can see highlighted areas of overprinting, inpainting and other indicators of the history and condition of the paint. Well, maybe. Crooks can apply a layer of masking varnish over new paint so that the new paint looks old!
If selling, it's best to let the buyer know early on the everything you know about the condition of a painting as it will almost always be a point of negotiation. For example, paintings with damage, whether repaired or not, may have drastically different value than well-preserved art.
To find out the size of the image, for oil on canvas paintings it's the outside dimensions of the stretcher board (not the frame). State the height first, followed by the width. For watercolors, its the size of the paper sheet containing the image.
If the painting is very expensive, a savvy buyer will have a conservator inspect the painting's condition and issue a condition report before closing the purchase deal. The buyer wants to make sure he or she is not overpaying, and may want to know the amount of money it will take to get the painting into top condition. For less valuable paintings the condition is still important but the use of experts is not as important.
Perhaps the painting already has a condition report. If so you have a leg up on the process. The reputation of the conservator issuing the report is very important. Ask museum curators and conservators for referrals before you hire an "expert." As a resource guide for names of local conservators, see the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Directory, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1717 K Street N. W. Suite 301, Washington, DC 20006, 202-452-9545. Note the Institute's articles on "Caring for Your Paintings, " "Caring for Your Works on Paper" and "Guidelines for Selecting a Conservator."

Return to Authentication and Evaluation of Paintings



1. See our section on Conservation.

While Traditional Fine Art Organization, Inc (TFAO) does not provide authentication services, the information in this report is provided as a public service and may be of help to readers studying approaches to authentication and evaluation of their works of art.

Links to sources of information outside of our website are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other websites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating online information see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

Search Resource Library

Copyright 2009 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.