How Can You Tell if a Painting is Valuable?

Art appraisers play an integral role in assessing the value of paintings


Whether you’re thinking of investing in a painting, or you’ve recently inherited a piece of artwork, determining what it may be worth can seem like a difficult task. We’ve put together some tips to help you ascertain if a painting could be valuable.

A crucial starting point is to determine who the artist is. Take a close look at any signature or initials using a magnifying glass. Research the name to get an idea of the artist's reputation, a comparison against a recorded authentic signature can also be helpful - extensive records and information is available online. In the absence of a signature, Googling the name of the painting or specific features of the image can offer some direction. If there is high demand for artworks by a particular artist or within a specific style or period, it can drive up prices significantly.


John Piper St Mary the Virgin Church

John Piper (1903 - 1992), St Mary the Virgin Church

Sold for £13,000


Provenance is another significant factor in determining a painting's value. Provenance refers to the documented history of ownership and authenticity of a piece of artwork. A painting with a well-documented provenance that can be traced back through reputable galleries or private collections adds credibility and increases its value. The back of a painting provides significant information, often including that of previous owners.


Attributed to John Riley Portrait of James II

Attributed to John Riley (1646 - 1691), Portrait of James II

Sold for £7,000


The types of materials used requires scrutiny. Paintings on canvas are likely to be more valuable, indeed a close examination of the backing can reveal details about the age. X or H shaped frames are typical of older paintings, while a canvas that has been attached with nails rather than staples is likely to be pre 1940 and therefore of some age. Consider the edges of the canvas, irregular brush strokes would indicate an original artwork, whereas completely uniform and straight edges suggest a reproduction. Paintings in oil will have raised textures of bumps and waves, while watercolours are usually on a rough paper. An image made up of tiny uniform dots is almost certainly a print – unless a print is a limited edition and/or signed, it is probably not worth a great deal.

The condition of the painting also plays an essential role in its valuation. Paintings that are well-preserved, with minimal damage or restoration work, tend to be more valuable than those with significant flaws or deterioration. The overall aesthetic appeal and quality of execution also contribute to its desirability and subsequent value.


Louis Bosworth Hurt Glen Cannich

Louis Bosworth Hurt (1856 - 1929) Glen Cannich

Sold for £11,000


Size of the artwork and subject matter will affect the overall desirability of a piece and will be dependent on current market trends and demand. Pieces that evoke strong emotions and command attention will appeal more to potential buyers. Historically, artworks with significant tones of red have been more valuable. Ornate, carved, and embellished frames would indicate a painting of worth. Original frames almost always supplement the value.

Art appraisers play an integral role in assessing the value of paintings. They consider all these factors along with current market trends and comparable sales data when determining an artwork's worth. It is important to note that valuing artwork is somewhat subjective and can vary depending on individual preferences and changing market dynamics. Consulting with a specialist valuer will provide valuable insights into understanding if a painting holds significant monetary worth or not.


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