Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn gives some top tips on how to judge the value of a painting...
Everyone has paintings in their homes, some of which we have chosen ourselves as mementoes of holidays or simply views and landscapes to remind ourselves of our childhoods, while others may have been gifts.
But how do you know you’re making the right investment when you buy an older painting?
A painting’s worth is largely subjective, but, as you would expect, there are reasons why some pictures have more commercial value.
The first factor in a painting’s value is who created it. The works of certain artists will cost more than others and this doesn’t just only apply to famous artists. For instance, Lake District painters are more widely collected in this area than in others.
The death of an artist increases the value of his work as does some notoriety – a very good painting by someone completely unknown may only sell for £20 whereas a hideous work by anyone remotely famous could go for £20m.
A good example of notoriety is the story of a stunning gold encrusted portrait known as the “Mona Lisa of Austria” that was looted by the Nazis and returned to its rightful owner in 2006. It sold for a reported £73m.
The second factor in a painting’s sale price is its content. Nostalgic scenes of a romanticised and idealised past or figurative paintings that tell a story tend to be more popular with buyers.The final and most difficult question before you buy is, “Is it a good painting?” For a dealer in paintings, intuition is very important, but there is no substitute for experience. That said, it is better to be honest and buy something you like, rather than buy it because you think it might be worth a lot.
If you only buy for investment, you won’t get the real “value” from the painting. If you don’t love it, you probably won’t end up hanging it, and of all collectables, surely paintings were created to be displayed.
The best places to develop a sense of what good art is are galleries and museums. There are also many courses on art and it can helps to build an understanding of the technical skills involved.
Then, you can recognise it when you see it! But a technically competent picture is not necessarily a masterpiece.
Collect what you like and enjoy your work of art regardless of its value and remember a painting is worth 10 times as much as a print, so make sure it is a painting, before you buy it.