Differentiating Original Art from Reproduced Art

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Differentiating Original Art from Reproduced Art

If you’re setting up a new home or even redoing the décor of your existing one, you’ve probably thought about investing in some artwork for your walls. Paintings can add character to your home like nothing else and they make great statements about your taste. But here’s the catch: not all artwork is original in nature. So how do you differentiate between original and reproduced artwork?

What is original artwork?


An original work of art is a work of art created solely from an artist's creative ingenuity and by his or hers own hand. Some famous examples of original artwork include Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Cafe Terrace at Night, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond and Woman with a Parasol. These paintings are worth a lot of money and their value increases with time. Most originals are owned privately or by museums across the world.

But I see these paintings everywhere!

Yes! But they are reproductions or reprints of these original works, made by artists who work either as freelancers or for art reproduction companies. Digital reproductions of classics are also becoming increasingly popular. You can buy these reprints online, at bookstores and often at art/craft/hobby stores. Duplicates of original artwork may or may not be licensed copies, and you should try to avoid buying these. In any case, they are extremely popular because they are affordable and make your home or office just as beautiful to the common eye.

How do I tell the difference between original and reproduced art?

Most people can’t tell the difference between an original and a reproduction. Art reprints are so authentic-looking that people cannot distinguish an original piece from its duplicate. Forgery experts even have special methods for ‘ageing’ a painting to make it look like a genuine piece. If you’re considering buying an expensive art piece, you must consult an art expert. He/she will be able to analyse the value and authenticity of a piece of art by looking at canvas quality and pattern, age of the medium used (oil, acrylic, water colour etc.), painter trademarks and signature, lining (colour and texture), framing and age/condition of the painting.

Can I afford to buy an original?

Certainly, an original painting is not defined as a painting by a famous artist only. Many pieces made by up-and-coming artists are reasonably priced. Visit art galleries or go online to search for original artwork by less famous artists. Of course, buying a classic original painted by masters like Picasso, Van Gogh, da Vinci, Dali or Pollock is a different matter altogether. The prices of their paintings run into the millions and are generally unaffordable. However, many classic works are still available for purchase through auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's or from private sellers.

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