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How to tell if it is an Original, Reproduction or Print?

Posted by on 8/14/2005

There are a lot of ways to tell if a piece is a reproduction or an original, especially to a trained artist. If you are not an artist, but rather a collector, let me tell you about a few things that anyone could look for. As far as authenticity, if you determine that it is in fact a painting and not a print…that should be done by a professional. Anyone willing to sell a piece of artwork should give you the option of authenticating it.

1-Ask to have the backing removed. This can be done carefully without any damage done and easily replaced. The dust-cover, or backing paper is easily and inexpensively replaced, if it is torn. This is done with all authentications. Once the dust-cover is removed, look at the back of the canvas. Held up to the light (with the back of the canvas facing you), you should see multiple layers of paint. This is usually more evident with paintings in the style of Gottlieb, where lines and shapes are present. Artists apply oil paint in layers, so what you are looking for is ‘thickness’, or evidence of the vicious medium. *Please note here that they are getting tricky and using various glosses, varnishes and gel combinations to ‘effect’ brush strokes. If you look closely at the back, and front, you will often see that the strokes do not match the subject matter. Ink from a machine is sprayed completely even.

2-Ask to have the frame removed. This can also be done carefully without any damage done and easily replaced. If it is a print, you will see a straight line all around the four edges of the piece. They may have tried to conceal this with painted on fake brush strokes, but with careful examination you will still see the line underneath. When an artist works, there will always be paint on the edge of the canvas from obvious effort. Even with those artists that use tape for a clean edge, there will be some seepage underneath the tape and paint ‘debris, such as, splashes, speckles, ‘feather’ markings. Work from a machine will always have a straight and very clean line.

3-And finally, if you have a good magnifying glass, or a jeweler’s loop, you can examine the front of the piece. What you are looking for here, is evidence of a printing machines pixels…or minute dots. A very good giclee machine will still leave some evidence, but you may need to know what you are looking for. Also, look for ‘breaking’ across the tooth of the canvas. This will be seen on the highlights of the piece, so look for any white. White is generally left alone on a piece and often applied last. With the magnifier, closely look at the tooth, or ‘bumps’, of the canvas to see that the white paint is only sitting on the top of the tooth. As the brush is pulled over the canvas with the thick final strokes, the top of the tooth is what grabs the paint. If it is a large area, look at the edge of the white, or highlight, color.

If all of this leaves you in the same ‘guessing’ spot, then my advice is this…have it authenticated. For either the forger has done such a great job that his effort alone deserves the fee, or…you may have the real deal.

Best of luck to you and I will hope you have a real FIND!

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