Art Historian vs Art Expert

Art Historian vs. Art Expert

All art experts (or appraisers) are art historians. But not all art historians are art experts.

The difference is between art knowledge and art understanding.

If you find a small drawing that may be by Rembrandt and show it to an art historian, they may quickly dismiss it as fake. They search all reference books and find nothing.

You show it to an art appraiser and they realize it is a lost study for one of Rembrandt’s etchings. They know preliminary studies of etchings are reversed from the final work. When a print is made it becomes a mirror image of the drawing. Of course it doesn’t resemble anything in books. This is the difference between art knowledge and art understanding.

If you are having difficulties authenticating a work, perhaps the problem is you are asking an academic art historian rather than an art appraiser with first hand field experience. The two professions are similar but not the same.

Would you hire an anatomist instead of a surgeon to take out your gall bladder? The first may be an expert on body parts, but has never seen the inside of a hospital operating room.

At Chicago Appraisers Association we may not know (without looking it up), what year Van Gogh first came to Paris, but we know what size canvas he used, what color paints he bought and how his brush strokes look. An art historian has the year memorized but knows nothing of wood stretchers, paint crackle and Van Gogh signature variations. He may not even realize Van Gogh often made more than one version of a painting.

When choosing an expert, make sure you hire the right person for the job. Many art collectors are misled by historians about works that are actually authentic. We have salvaged over 64 works of art in the last 10 years for collectors like you.

Just give our office a call and we’ll be glad to discuss the possibility of re-opening research and examining your work with a completely open mind. We don’t look for ways to “shoot it down” but for ways it could be real.


The Impressionist art movement continued on after the Post-impressionist art movement had died out.