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How to Determine if a Painting Is an Original or a Fake

river-paintingPurchasing an original work of art can be a worthy investment. However, because reproductions of oil paintings are often disguised as original works, it often takes a trained eye to distinguish a real from a fake.

Look for Copyright Information

Many reproductions will have the copyright information printed somewhere on the front in small letters. These can be tucked into the corner or even behind a frame, making it easy to miss. Look for the “©” symbol as well as a date of production.

Inspect the Materials Used

Though some reproductions are done on canvas, they are usually printed on paper, fiberboard or cardboard that is grey in color. The weight of the piece is another giveaway. If the oil painting is thin and lightweight, it is probably a reproduction. If printed on canvas, hold the painting up to the light, as reproductions will often be visible from the back. Authentic works are usually done on canvas, Masonite panel, certain types of wood and sometimes even paper. If done on canvas, most originals works will have a stretcher, which is a good indicator of authenticity.

Look Closely for Dots

Reproductions of oil paintings tend have a dot pattern which can only be seen under magnification. Bring a small magnifying glass with you when art shopping in order to thoroughly inspect each work. This dot pattern is the same one used in magazines or images in books. Before shopping, look at several of these pictures to use as a comparison.

Watch Out For Simulated Brush Strokes

Because prints are mere images with no depth, often reproductions will have a clear gel applied to simulate authentic brush strokes. Look closely at the painting itself in correlation with the stroke marks. If they do not match up, then it is most likely a reproduction. Real brush strokes can be identified with the fingertips. They will have a rough and tactile feeling to them, which cannot be duplicated by a clear gel.

Check the Back for Notations

The back of a painting can hold a lot of useful information in identifying the age and originality. Labels, written notations or stamps are all very helpful in relaying the story of a piece. This can include the artist’s name, title and registration number of the painting.

Inspect the Signature

A signed painting does not always mean an original work. Often these will be added to a reproduction to fool the buyer. Use the magnifying glass to look for dots. Make sure it has not been painted over with a clear gel to simulate brush strokes. If the strokes correlate with the signature and it does not have the “flat” look of a print, it is most likely an original work of art.

A stunning work of art can add sophistication and beauty to a home as well as appreciate in value, resulting in a priceless family heirloom. Distinguishing an original from a fake can take diligence, but the result will be worth the detective work.

About the author:

Sam Moser is a freelance web content writer who graduated from the School of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Sam began to learn about art when he came across the Mana Contemporary website.

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