How to Identify the Fine Art: Tips for Beginners

How to Identify the Fine Art: Tips for Beginners

In the art world, where a lot of money is at stake, it is necessary to be extremely cautious and attentive when you are going to buy the fine art. It is essential to have a certain visual skill that allows one to immediately distinguish the grossest forgeries and to make an initial attribution of the artwork.

The professional expertise of artworks is a complex process that includes a lot of nuances and research methods, which can be carried out by specialists only. Besides, the technological research of the fine art with the use of special equipment and laboratory settings may be required. However, there are several tips of the initial expertise, which can help you make the first steps of identification by yourself.

Visual analysis of the fine art 

Signature and date

If you have original work in front of you, the artist’s signature and date can make the attribution process much easier. The signature can be illegible, but the main challenge is to recognize the first three letters to learn the artist`s last name. To avoid buying a forgery, you should make sure that the painter did sign their works that way (you can use special catalogs for this).


Manufactured subframes allow identifying the so-called “old” artworks made yesterday. All original canvases of the Old Masters were stretched on the hand-crafted frameworks.


You can hardly determine visually whether the painter used lead white or some modern pigments, but you can determine the technique (oil, tempera, watercolor, etc.). If it is an acrylic work with a signature, for example, “1880,” it is an obvious forgery because the acrylic paints appeared only in 1949. Or if you know that the artist always made tempera works but this one is oil on canvas, do deeper research to ensure that it is not a forgery but rather an exception.


The backside of the fine art piece is as important as its front side. Different stamps, signatures, monograms, and inscriptions can tell a lot. Besides, precisely from the backside, you can review more attentively the structure of the canvas. The type of binding and canvas material may point to the period and the territory where the work was made and also confirm or refute the authenticity of the authorship. For example, Nicolas Poussin painted his works on linen canvases with plain weave, Paolo Veronese and Tintoretto painted on coarse-grained canvases, and the impressionists used jute as a background.

Attribution of the fine art paintings is truly a detective work, full of excitement and passion. Begin your practice with these easy tips and you will see artworks from another angle and thus understand them better.