Art is a wonderful past time we all share, around the world. Men and women have used art for pure enjoyment, to share history, to record images of the way a particular person or scene looks. Today artwork can be found in Galleries, Stores, Homes, etc. It is all around us!!

Over  the centuries, artists were usually broke or recognized after their death. So how did they make money, or help others to make money? Dalí for example signed his student’s work, so they could make more money than if they signed their own artwork. He was also known for signing blank canvases. Or many artists mass produced their work, creating hundreds if not thousands over their lifetime.  Which leads us into the world of FRAUD.

Unfortunately, fraud comes with the Fine Arts Territory, because it is a very lucrative business. It is easier than you think, to lie to someone about a piece of art and get away with it. Even prestigious Art Dealers and Appraisers have been fooled.  Art forgery dates back more than two-thousand years!! ** Roman sculptors produced copies of Greek sculptures, making them not genuine.

   There are a few things you, as an art collector, can do when shopping for artwork:

Do your Research:

  1. Gallery / Seller:
  • Do you know anything about the person / company who is selling the artwork? Do they have good reviews? Believe it or not, you can find something about the company whom you are buying from.
  • However, purchasing from an individual can be harder to identify if the they are legit, and if you have faith that the original purchaser was not duped into buying a fake. One way to verify the originality is to check on the Provenance; see below.
  1. Research Your Artist:
  • Where and When were they born?
  • Where did they live when they were young?
  • Where did they live or travel in their adult life?
  • What type of medium did / do they use regularly?
  • What subjects do they usually like to portray?
  • What does their signature look like?

During this research you will most likely see if forgery and fraud is wrapped up with this specific artist. Masters of the art are usually mimicked by many people ~ these masters, such as Picasso sell for an extremely high value. There are special places that are dedicated to one artist (such as Dalí) whose sole purpose is to seek out the fraudulent work that diminishes this artists life work. You can also send your ‘piece’ to them to have it verified as legitimate or fraudulent.

Apply the Artist Research you have learned to what you have been told by the Seller. Does it match?

Things to look for when spotting a fake:


  1. Provenance:
  • No matter who you are buying from get the history on where the piece has been seen….exhibitions, galleries, etc.
  • Where had it traveled?
  • How long has it been under the original purchaser’s control?

This can help you in deciding whether or not the piece is fraudulent. If you are buying artwork created by an old master, chances are this piece has been exhibited before. You may even possibly find it on-line if you know where to look.

  1. Artwork Itself:
  • Look closely at the brush strokes (Oil and Acrylic Paintings) ~ can you see how the paint is thicker in some areas? If the only brush strokes you see are globs of clear paint, then you most likely have a print that was enhanced, usually by a no name person. Furniture Stores usually carry this type of art. However, if you see small number of strokes that are thicker than the rest of the painting, and they are in differing colors, you may have a print hand enhanced by the artist.
  • Look at the signature ~ Does it match the artists other signatures? It an be difficult to tell because some artist do their signatures differently often, or it changes slightly through out the years. Sometimes the signature is easy to duplicate. It can be difficult to tell.
  • Look at the image ~ Is it in the same style or using the subjects the artist is known for? Such as Remington, he is known for his Equestrian Bronzes. So if you find a piece from him of a bird. You may want to ask more questions or do more research. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Is your artwork on canvas? Is it purported to be over a century old? The canvas and the nails or staples will help you identify if it is truly vintage or antique. A canvas over 100 years old will be a yellowish or brown color, no longer white. As with everything time fades it. Square head nails were used Pre 1880 then Rectangular Head Nails until around 1880. Then on to our nails with circular heads, which are also machine produced, no longer made by hand, then on to staples.
  1. Certificate of Authenticity:
  • Most Importantly is it Signed by the artist? If yes, wonderful. However, if it is not signed by the artist then do more research.

These certificates are extremely tricky. Some companies have been known to print a certificate the day of purchase and sign it with the artists signatures. This is one reason why you need to do your research on the company you are buying from. If they have a bad rap for providing false documents…don’t purchase from them. No matter how much you love the artwork. Most likely you will be spending a ton of money on a print, not the original.

Doing your own research helps you become a Knowledgeable Collector; however, it is always in your best interest to Contact Your Fine Arts Appraiser. Contact them before purchase for a consultation. Contact them afterwards and get your own appraisal, even if your seller provides you with one. Someone who makes money off the value may very well provide an exaggerated appraisal.

If you are in San Diego County or North County then please give us a call, we would love to be YOUR Loyal and Entrusted Fine Arts Appraiser and Restorer!!! 6169/929-6192 “We Bring You Truth”