Authentication and Evaluation of Paintings


See images of the artist's work

If you see similarities between your painting and others by an artist you have an indication of the creator of the art and other useful information. For instance, painters frequently use a limited assortment of canvas sizes, usually sign their names the same way and often are known for specialization in where and what they paint, media, palette and style. When searching for images of paintings if you find the exact likeness of your painting that is usually a dead giveaway that you have a copied painting or a reproduction. See our section on Prints and Reproductions for more information on reproductions. Following are ways to find images of artists' paintings.

Go to Artcyclopedia and AskArt on the Web. These web sites contain lists of thousands of artists.

Artcyclopedia has a list of artists that contains names of artists from around the world. To be included in the Artcyclopedia list, an artist's works must be in a museum. Artcyclopedia provides links to photos of paintings owned by museums.
The largest online repository of images of American art works located by TFAO is maintained by AskArt. AskArt's database as of November 2004 provided data on over 34,000 American artists. There is a searchable Web page for each artist. Many of the artist records contain an Image Gallery. A portion of the images for each artist are viewable without charge, while others are available on a fee basis. For example, as of November 2004, AskArt's page for Andy Warhol contained 1,038 artwork images, while the page for Edgar Payne contains 452 images.
AskArt launched in 2004 Magazine Ad Archives as a new addition to its web site. AskArt describes the service as "a display of art works which were featured in major fine art magazines over the past 20 years. Some of these works were advertised for sale, and others were taken from feature articles. In many cases they represent some of the very best works by the artists, and may not be found elsewhere on the internet."
AskArt's listings provide information on museums that own an artist's works, and the listings contain names of dealers who either have the artists' works for sale or want to buy works of artists.

Use search engines using the artist's name to find web pages mentioning the artist. Some of these pages will have images. Google provides an image search feature based on artists' names. Note names of museums or commercial galleries owning the artist's works. See who wrote articles and books mentioning the artist for follow up.

Here are examples of museums with online image search:

The database of over 82,000 objects in the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco collection are searchable in several ways on the Museum's web site.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art permanent collection includes nearly 100,000 works of art. The LACMA website offers access to an online database of over 58,000 works their collection with search by various options including "popular themes."
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston online collections database features keyword search with a check box to select objects currently on display.
Visitors of the National Gallery of Art web site can search the collection by artist, title, subject, expanded search, provenance, or accession number.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a database of over 1,200 artist biographies that are searchable online.

Look in the Distinguished Artists Series for references to sources with photos of art works and to find out which museums have exhibited the type of art you have or have in their collection works of the artist. The museums may have published catalogues on the artist. A catalogue contains a list of works of art in an exhibition. It provides information on each work such as title, artist, medium, size, as well as owner, gallery or collection of the works. It may contain photos of many or all of the works in the exhibit. A catalogue also contains text by one or more experts interpreting the exhibition.

Check sources to see if there is a catalogue raisonné of the artist's works. A catalogue raisonné is a complete, annotated catalogue of the works of a deceased artist. It contains photos and information such as title, medium, size of each work. It also provides details of the present condition, and provenance of each work. If there is one published, you can see if the exact image of your painting is included in the book. Inclusion can be good news or bad news. Probably bad news if in a recently published volume the work is listed as being held by a museum!

You can ask a reference librarian to obtain a catalogue raisonné copy through an inter-library loan if you can identify the book well enough. Help out the librarian by obtaining, if possible, the exact name of the book, the author's name, the ISBN number, the publisher's name and the date published. Sometimes a search engine on the Web can find this book information by entering in the search box the artist's name followed by the words catalogue raisonne (example: "Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne")


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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. Names and addresses of consultants or vendors.are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. TFAO is not paid by consultants or vendors for listings in this report and does not receive any referral fees from them. Please use due diligence in employing these or other consultants or vendors. TFAO takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information herein. Information from the named consultants or vendors may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other Internet sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over those other sites. The names, logos, trademarks, and service marks of TFAO and its publications that appear within this web site may not be used in any advertising, publicity, promotion, or in any other manner implying TFAO endorsement, sponsorship, or affiliation with any product or service, without TFAO's prior express written permission.

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