Who is the Artist Who Signed This Painting?

Who signed this painting

Question: Who is the Artist Who Signed This Painting?


I regularly get emails asking about the signature on a painting, who the artist was and whether the painting is worth anything. Here are a few examples:

"My parents have this picture for many years and are very curious as to its origin and value."

"I found this picture behind an old oil paint. On the back is says..."

"Would you know who this artist is? The initials EEW are on the bottom left. I found it in my attic over 20 years ago."

Those news stories you read about a long-lost masterpiece discovered in the attic or bought for a dime at a carboot sale, those are the exception. The chances that you've got one are small.

If it's a print, unless it's a very limited edition, the odds are even worse because it's just that, a reproduction, one of many. If it's a fine-art print, such as a collograph etching, or linocut, then you've an original. There is a crucial difference between the two.

To find out, you need the expertise of an art dealer from an auction house, someone familiar with the famous artists certainly but, more importantly, with the regional names, the minor successes, the neglected and forgotten. Identifying most works of art is outside my expertise. My particular interest is in painting technique with a spattering of art history spread through it. I am not an antiques or art history specialist, nor do I have the kind of insurance against erroneous attributions that such professionals carry.

Start with your local auction house, or contact a dealer that specializes in art, and work your way around from there. You shouldn't have to pay for a basic evaluation, and also don't feel you need to get only one opinion. But, equally, don't expect vast amounts of time and expertise for free; people have a living to make.