How To Find Out If A Painting Is Valuable

Published on November 13, 2020

For times unknown, art is one of the most potent forms of self-expression among human beings. The history of art is a discipline in itself in universities where you can learn how art molds the thought-process of civilizations through the millennia. In the modern world, art has taken many forms and come out as powerful as ever.

There are many forms of art with painting being at its center. There is no doubt every painting is valuable and significant at an aesthetic level. But there are many new and old paintings that are valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. This is because of the cultural value and timeless relevance which makes the art-lovers go crazy and spend a fortune to own such paintings. In some instances, they don’t even get to show it and keep them in a bank vault for safekeeping.

On the subject of the value of paintings, a piece by the old man of renaissance Leonardo Da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, has been auctioned off by the original owner for over a staggering $450 million. This is one of the many examples where artwork bags big bucks. Another such example is the painting by Paul Cézanne that was sold for over $230 million.

For average people like us, it is not easy to comprehend the real worth of such pieces of art, both in the monetary and aesthetic sense. There is a chance we have paintings that our parents and grandparents bought and still lying in the basement, but we don’t what they are worth.

It requires extensive research to find out what a painting really is and how much value it holds in the market. So, it is important to study the painting to understand its cultural worth.

If you own a painting and want to find out if the painting has buyers in the market that can give big bucks for a painted canvas, here are some tips that will help you in your quest:

Look For The Previous Owners

This is the first step of the many to find out the real worth of the painting you own. It is an excellent indicator of the real worth of the painting.

If an ultra-rich person or someone well-respected in the art community owned it before you, there is a chance that the painting is worth more than you think. One obvious thing is that they owned it because they knew its real value.

In the art market, there is a lot of added value to a piece just on the basis that it was pre-owned by someone famous or an art-collector.

If you are not satisfied with this and want to dig a little deeper, you can create a list of all the owners of the painting before you and try to trace the first buyer. If a link is obvious between a painter and that owner, you can cash it for a fortune, added that the painter, painting, or certain buyers carry any significant value in the community.

Related: Gifts For People Who Are Interested To Learn About A Painting's Value

While tracing the for the original buyer, make sure you ask for documentation and receipts that can cement the claims of ownership with the painting. There is also a way to trace the ownership of a painting is just by flipping it. Usually, they carry the names and credentials of owners in the past.

Pro Tip: If you are not able to contact any previous buyers, you can take the painting to a museum, a professional art curator, or a university for appraisal. This will give you insights into the previous ownership and authenticity of the painting.

Find Out The Artist

After scouring for the owners, you should try and look for the artist who painted the piece. If the painter is well-known, it would directly add to the value of the painting. But if the artist is not as popular, you should still pursue the study and find out who the painter is. You can make the relation of the artist with some influential era the art or something like that. This could enhance the value of the painting.

It does not limit to the artistic life of the painter. If the painter led an interesting life and was a “larger than life” character in the time, this could still help in getting big bucks for the money. Also, if the painter is dead and painted only a limited number of paintings, this could still make the piece a collector’s item. The basic laws of economics will put a heft tag to your painting.

There are instances where living artists bag a big load for their paintings, owing to their popularity or notoriety. For example, Banksy is a popular artist who has managed to sell graffiti-based paintings for over a million dollars each.

Examine The Condition Of The Painting

Like all other things, you should take a deep and prying look at a painting before buying it from its owner. Especially in the old paintings, look for rips, cracks, and tears. If the painting is barely hanging by the strings, the value is much less. If the color has faded, you need to get it touched up, but it will decrease the value of the painting by many folds.

There are many cases where art institutions and organizations spent a fortune on restoring paintings from antiquity and renaissance. One of the examples from many is the painting from Titian called “Bacchus and Ariadne”. It was one of the series and was restored after a grand operation. The result showed the amazing development of art from that era.

Keep Subject Matter Of The Painting In Mind

Throughout your quest to find out the real value of the painting, you will see that even the subject matter of the painting plays a significant role in determining the value of a painting.

According to historical records, there are certain visible trends, as far as the paintings are concerned.

1. Portraits of beautiful women and the women of substance were sold for more money than that of their counterparts. There are still exceptions to this rule but they are not that widespread. So, if you own the portrait of an aristocratic lady from a century ago, you can make a fortune.

2. Landscape paintings can be tricky. The visible pattern in this relates positively to happy, bright, and colorful landscapes when compared against gloomy and dark landscapes.

3. One of the interesting aspects of the trend is that if a painting is painted by someone famous, it does not conform to the idea of trends and the subject matter loses its charm. This is evident from many of the historical and contemporary paintings.

Study The Frame

The paintings are attached to frames once they are finished. It would be a surprise to many that even frames are helpful in determining the real value of a given painting.

There are some pictures that come in quality frames. There is a similarity in the frames from the works of an artist. In some cases, frames are worth more than the painting itself, due to the cultural value and pattern work on it.

The frame of the painting should correspond to the time period of the painting. In most cases, the frames of 19th-century paintings are more intricate and detailed as compared to their counterparts in the 20 century which were simpler and straightforward.

If you find that the timeline of the painting and the frame do not correspond with each other, you should consult an expert on it.

Surface Of The Painting

In terms of value, evaluators also determine the nature of the surface the art is painted on. The general rule of thumb here is that the paintings on the canvas are worth more than the ones done on paper. On the subject of techniques and modes of art, paintings bag more value than sketches or even prints. So, keep that in mind while you are looking to add a tag to your painting.

The surface is important for the life of a painting. Paper cannot last longer than the canvas. In modern times, there are ways to preserve it more easily, but it was not easy in the past. That’s why many pieces of the canvas have survived millennia where papers were lost in the wind of time.

The Colors In The Painting

There are instances in which colors play a contributing factor in the value of the painting. In theory, certain colors can attract more money from buyers when compared to others.

One of the reasons behind this color discrimination is the psychological effect colors have on the human psyche. There are colors that make us feel different.

Studies show that the color “red” can bag more money than their counterparts in the past. So, if your painting has a lot of red in it, you are probably in for a lot of cash.

There are instances where red paintings earned around $21,000 more than other colors in paintings. Here are two examples to elucidate that stance.

1. A painting by Gerard Richter sold for $1.1 million. If you are wondering what color was dominant in it, it was called “Blood Red Mirror”.

2. Lucio Fontano’s painting called “Concetto spaziale, Attese” was sold for over $1.5 million. Guess what was the main color in the painting? It was all red.

The Stature & Appeal Of The Painting

There is a test that you can carry out to check the wall power of your painting.

Hang the painting on the wall where you can see it from both far away and up close. Now, look at it several times periodically from both perspectives.

If the result is that the painting grabs your attention and draws you closer to the wall, it is worth more than you thought it was.

You can also run that test with friends and guests where you can hang it at the wall where visitors can have a look. Then, ask their opinions about it and you will know what it really is.

After all, there is a reason why art lovers and visitors are drawn to museums in all parts of the world. The paintings and artwork from centuries ago still have the power to capture the eyes and minds of the people. There are dedicated schools and disciplines in the universities that teach the effects of art on human minds and their thinking process.

Go Beyond The Surface

The heading refers to look for signatures and credentials from owners or even from the painter. There are many painters who do not want to blemish the surface of the painting by putting their signature on it. So, the natural place to put your ownership on the painting is by flipping it over and write whatever seems necessary.

If you find a signature on the back of the painting, but you are not sure about its authenticity, you can take the painting to an expert or appraiser and ask him to take a look at it. This will give you a clearer picture of what the thing is all about.

There is one instance in recent history that will surely reveal how it is important to look everywhere in the painting for signatures and credentials, both by owners and the painters.

One painting by Mary Louise Fairchild MacMonnies was about to be sold in an auction for $8,000 in April 2018. It was called The Garden. During the auction, it was flipped over and the care-takers found key information and signatures on the back. This skyrocketed the price of the painting. That same painting was sold for $37,500. This is how much the information about a certain painting can contribute to its price in the market.


Sometimes, it will be really hard to determine the real worth of the painting. To make it easier for you, we have shared some of the practical tips. By following these, hopefully, you will get to know about the real worth of your painting. There are many things that come into play while evaluating the value of a painting, including some special circumstances that were not there earlier but changed the whole artistic landscape in the community. Still, after much hard work and research and you are still in limbo, you can always take your painting to a professional for appraisal. This will give you a clear picture of what your painting is worth.

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