Authenticating Modern Paintings

Authenticating Modern Painting
(My Child Can Paint Better Than That!)

When authenticating traditional paintings, (Old Master to Classical) we carefully examine the artist’s anatomy, perspective, color, and composition. If it is a work by a major artist, these tend to always be correct. If these are flawed, it is either a bad copy or a student’s painting.

You must use different “yardsticks” to judge modern and abstract painting. For instance:

You be the Art Appraiser – Examine the paint

Jackson Pollack’s famous “drip” paintings look easy to fake. In fact, they are extremely difficult. The experienced art appraiser immediately looks for two things: First – was each layer of paint dry before the next one was added? Pollack worked in careful stages. The drips never have a “marbled” mixed look. Second – although his paintings look to the uneducated eye like an “explosion in a spaghetti factory,” there always is a careful composition center. This centricity is characteristic of all authentic paintings.

You be the Art Appraiser – Examine the paint

Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings often look child like with paint smeared on with wild abandon. All the movies show him slashing at his canvas with his brush in maniacal fury. When we authenticate his works, we look for two things: First, each brush stroke was deliberately placed, with composition carefully thought out. The experienced art appraiser knows slashing brush strokes can only be placed by slowly dragging the brush over the canvas at a 33o angle or you pick up all the paint beneath. If there is a lot of blending of top paint and under paint, it isn’t a Van Gogh.

Second, Van Gogh’s compositions are anything but child-like. He made deliberate decisions of what he wanted to include and what he wanted to leave out. He abandons depth in his paintings to be able to use the same rhythm in his shapes and brush strokes. He leaves out detail to use bright colors and thick paint. He knew you can’t paint a riot. You must give up something to achieve the powerful message he wanted. Forgers don’t understand this trade off and put too much in their fakes.

Art authentication is an art itself, but based on scientific principles. A true art expert carefully documents why a work is authentic or not. They don’t pull opinions “out of the air.” This is why a professional appraiser charges more than the “little local guy” in your town. We see things in paintings that others don’t. We clearly explain and document these for you without rambling jargon. Isn’t this the type of appraisal you want?

Always use a full-service professional firm, not some “one man band” that provides you with a letter that really says nothing.Chicago Appraisers Association, serving collectors, insurance companies and museums for over 40 years.We’re not the best appraisers because we’re the oldest . . . we’re the oldest appraisers because we’re the best.


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