Buying a painting? Things to look out for before parting with your cash!

buying a painting ~ The Art Connoisseurs
The Art Connoisseurs Louis Léopold Boilly

This article is not about new paintings but concerns buying a painting with some age, value or both.

Many people are sold paintings by unscrupulous dealers that are not what they appear or  told, or they pick up a painting from an auction believing it to be by a particular artist, only to discover at some point that it is not by that artist at all and the painting is not worth what they paid for it.

Buyer beware!! –  there are many traps that the unsuspecting purchaser can fall into that can end up costing a great deal of money.

In my own gallery, I’ve had numerous people over the years bring in works of art believing they have bought well and I have to break bad news to them gently.

So, to give you a better chance of not buying “a pig in a poke”, this is my advice to buying a painting with confidence.

Familiarise yourself with the artists work
  • If you are buying a piece of art of a particular artist, the first thing you should do is familiarise yourself with the artist’s work and ask yourself the following questions.  Is this work typical of this artist? Is the work signed and is the signature the same as other work by this artist?  Is the price I’m being asked to pay about right for this artist?


  • Is the piece of Art in good condition?  If it is a canvas, look for tears, look to see if the canvas has been relined, look to see if the paint is flaking or cracking.  If it is a watercolour, print or work on paper check to see that there are no tears in the paper, check to see that the colour is true and not faded, check that there is no mould or other blemishes on the paper.


  • Unfortunately, years ago, Galleries and dealers didn’t pay much heed to conservation or the need to make repairs professionally.  Many dealers would make repairs themselves, filling in cracks on paintings, overpainting blemishes, using inappropriate tape to repair tears on the backs of works on paper that over the years have resulted in the gum coming through to the front of the picture.


  • It was not unknown for pictures to be cut down or altered to suit frames or to make the picture more fashionable.  Thankfully that is not so much a problem although occasionally you come across a painting that has been restored very badly.  For myself, I will not attempt restoration work of any description and rely on professionals that I have used for many years on all pictures that need restoration.  Restoration work doesn’t come cheap but you know when you use a professional, that the work has been done well.
Ask for Provenance
  • If you are buying a painting of value, ask the dealer for provenance.  This information tells you where the picture has come from and sometimes it is possible to find the information that will lead you right back to when the piece was first sold.  The more information that you can find out about the piece, the better.


  • Try not to buy on impulse unless it is a recent painting.  Do some research and study the painting very carefully.  Two things that are useful to have with you, a magnifying glass and a small torch.  It is amazing the things that the work will reveal to you as you inspect.  Think about it overnight or over a few days before buying.  If you are worried about losing it in the meantime, most dealers and Galleries will be prepared to hold the work for you for a day or two if they genuinely believe you are interested in purchasing.


  • If you follow these guidelines, it will give you a greater deal of security that the picture you have bought is genuine, in good condition and bought at the right price.

Good luck and happy collecting!!

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