world is awash in copies. Advanced copying techniques and
skilled forgers can make it a
challenge to distinguish a reproduction from an original piece.
There are several things to
look for to determine if an oil
on canvas is genuine — among
them signatures, artistic styles
and abilities, hand-painted versus machine-made, canvases
Of these, identifying the
signature can be the quickest
method for authentication. The
question is — does the signature on the subject painting
match signatures on known
documents by the same artist?
Fortunately, there are reference
books and periodicals that contain known artist signatures for
Another method for determining authenticity is to check
the artistic style and ability. Did
the artist execute the subject
painting in the same style and
manner as known documented
paintings? Sometimes in a forgery there will be lines that are normally
detailed but instead rendered in a blurry
style, or the painting may use lighting
techniques not normally associated with
the period or artist. These are good giveaways to identifying a potential fraud.
Another tool for identifying forgeries is
examining the construction of the canvas
itself. An original painting may feature irregular and uneven paint on the edge of
the canvas, while a print copy may have
clean and even edges that can be hidden
within a frame.
With original oil paintings, viewers can
see and feel the texture of the paint and
notice the colors may overlap one another. An original painting examined under
a strong light might also show the pencil
lines from the artist’s original sketch or
changes they made while painting.
Sometimes forgers will use high quality
inkjet printers to make giclée copies and
then add hand-touched embellishments
afterward to make them look like a real
painting. On close examination, appraisers can see these copies use a dot matrix
One of the most intriguing and confusing categories in property insurance in- volves appraising fine art.
With the highest price paid for a work of
art now at $250 million, a forgery is comparatively worthless; the potential cost of
making an error is enormous.
The official definition of fine art is “a
visual art created primarily for aesthetic
purposes and viewed positively for its
beauty and meaningfulness.” Objects
considered fine art include paintings,
sculptures, drawings, watercolors, graph-
ics, and architecture. Fine art should not
be confused with mass produced decora-
tive items, IKEA art, children’s drawings,
framed posters and the like.
It’s common to see a lot of fine art items
with incorrect artist attributions and incorrect mediums, which means an incorrect claimed value. Different art mediums
such as oil paintings and prints require
different authentication methods.
Authenticating oil paintings
While only one individual or institution
can own an original painting, thousands
of people can own a copy. Original art has
been copied for centuries with reproductions providing less expensive versions
for popular distribution. As a result, the
Real or Forgery?
Telling the Difference
is a Fine Art
By Erin Hollenbank
A woman looks at a forgery of Vincent van
Gogh’s painting ‘The Sower’ by Leonhard
Wackerforger at a 2014 exhibition of fakes
at Moritzburg art museum in Germany.
(Peter Endig/dpa/Alamy Live News)