Painting Evaluations

Ok, so I noticed that my most popular post is about whether we should use price per square inch as a tool to evaluate works of art, so I wanted to re-post Painting Evaluations because this is the best way to try and determine what your painting is worth.  There's no exact science to it, but we can get a ballpark of what someone might pay for it.  Remember, a piece of art is worth whatever someone will pay for it. Below are the guidelines I use when I evaluate works of art, so I hope it will help you in becoming a more savvy collector and possibly identify a good value when you come across one.

People always want to know what their artwork is worth.  With the popularity of Antiques Roadshow, a lot of people have cleaned out their attics in hopes of finding something worth a small fortune.  I love when people come see me and bring in an old dusty painting with more cracks than Humpty Dumpty and swear it's valuable because they saw a painting on Antiques Roadshow that had a similar looking horse in the background.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not discouraging people from bringing me paintings to evaluate, because I always enjoy the conversation, and I'm always interested in purchasing paintings by established Western, Wildlife and Sporting artists from the 19th and 20th century.  You can view a full list of artists that I'm seeking to consign or purchase in the tab above labeled "Wanted to Buy".  There are a ton of factors to consider when purchasing or even selling a painting, so I just wanted to share some basics regarding painting evaluations.
  1. Identify the Artist.  Your first clue on whether your work of art has any value is identifying WHO the artist is.  I hate to say it, but the artist is a lot like a brand name.  The more recognized the artist, the more valuable your painting's going to be.
  2. Dimensions.  What are the dimensions of the image not including the frame, and for sculptures, what is the length, height, and width of your bronze.
  3. Provenance.  What is the ownership history of the painting?  How did you come by the painting?  Has it been displayed in any museum exhibitions?  What's the literature history of the painting?  Provenance could potentially add value and it's a crucial factor in determining authenticity.
  4. Connoisseurship.  According to Wikipedia, modern connoisseurship must be seen along with museums, art galleries and "the cult of originality". Connoisseurs evaluate works of art on the basis of aesthetic conclusions. Judgment informed by intuition is essential, but it must be grounded in a thorough understanding of the work itself. On the basis of empirical evidence, refinement of perception about technique and form, and a disciplined method of analysis, the responsibility of the connoisseur is to attribute authorship, validate authenticity and appraise quality.  I don't know if I feel smarter or like a dumba** after reading this, but I have a strong desire to sip on some wine and walk through a stuffy gallery pretending to know what I'm looking at.  Basically, it's measuring the quality of the painting in comparison to the body of work of the artist.  How does the painting rate compared to the artist's other works?  Did the work win any awards?  Was the painting published?  Does the style of the painting correspond to the style of the artist while he was most coveted?  If you don't already know, I will often refer to the quality of a painting based on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being a must-buy.  It's an attempt to simplify the comparison of the painting to the body of work by an artist.  Like most things in art, it's purely subjective.
  5. Condition.  What's the condition of the painting?  Does it have any major craquelure?  Is there any in-painting?  Are there any rips or tears?  Does it need to be re-lined?  Is it still in the original frame?
  6. Subject Matter.  This could easily fall under Connoisseurship, but artists will create an identity for themselves and certain subject matters will have a higher demand.  For wildlife artists, there may be a higher demand for a specific animal, or for Western narrative artists, the difference in demand for Native American scenes compared to Cowboy scenes.
  7. Medium.  Different mediums include oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouaches, pencil, pastels, bronze, wood, photography, or anything else an artist can use to create a piece of artwork.  Typically oils and acrylics will demand higher prices than watercolors and pastels.  It doesn't mean one is better than another.
  8. Collection Factors.  are components that contribute to the overall value of a piece of art and in turn, your collection. See my post regarding Collection Factors by clicking here.
As we continue our conversations, we'll go into more depth of these factors and how they apply to buying and selling your artwork.  These are all crucial when it comes to putting together a collection that could potentially show a return on your investment.  Please don't hesitate to add something to the list or any general thoughts in the comments.  Remember, this isn't a conversation with your dog, so the dialogue should go both ways.  Also let me know what else you would like covered by the Western Art Dealer.


  1. Wow Buddy, that is the best "Cliff's Notes" to this subject I have ever heard! That evaluation check list should be pre-requisite to anyone wondering what their grandma's attic treasures are worth. It seems like a lot of clients who call about values seldom even know the artist or title of what they have! "It is a bunch of Native Americans in front of a tipi in the woods, how much is it worth?".


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