Sign or not to Sign an Artwork


Signatures on an artists work can shift over the years. I know I’ve had a few. I always found them to be a distraction. By placing a signature you’re basically saying “this is the right way up”! So today I thought I’d look at some take aways from an article found on the Christies website written by Holly Black. She interviewed a few people working there about artists signatures. Lots of art examples to illustrate.

7 important things to know about artist signatures – Holly Black

Holly interviewed key people at Christies to gain some insights. After reading this article I came away with a big grin on my face. Thanks Holly for your research.

  1. Signatures began in the Renaissance (1400’s) – This was when artists started doing their own work rather than being as part of a cooperative
  2. Part of the artistic process – “that piece is complete. Don’t rework it” – Sid Motion
  3. Useful for dating artworks – Some artists used symbols or different versions of their name over time.
  4. Some signatures are hidden – Some are hidden in the artwork itself and can only be found by close inspection.
  5. False signatures sometimes cover a famous signature – This sometimes occurs. An example was a well known Jewish artist that they think had their signature covered up during WW2 so it would still be around.
  6. Experts can spot a fake – Two main types. Either a complete painting is made to mimic an artist or a fake signature is added to a painting to increase its value. Experts look at the whole picture. The age of the paint etc.‘In research terms a signature is always one piece in a larger puzzle.’ – (Pediconi)
  7. Signatures are not essential – It is not just about a signature that decides the value of an artwork. Some artists don’t sign (eg Stanley Spencer) while other works can have a signature obscured by oxidation etc due to their age.

‘Picasso … In his early career he signed including his middle name as P R (or Ruiz) Picasso, later dropping the initial and developing a more decorative version (then) During his analytical Cubist period he stopped signing the fronts of his canvases entirely in order not to detract from the art itself.’

Are signatures on an artwork really necessary? Well it looks like that as artists there is no one set formula. Friends of mine have gotten around it by signing on the back. Some use a barcode. Then of course there are digital versions that can have a watermark. Adding to the mix are some great ideas from this article. Informed ideas you can take on board if you find signatures are getting in the way of your creative expression.

Yet in saying this I think we must also be mindful about the value of a signature when marketing our work. History is one thing. The reality of being an artist these days sometimes dictates whether a signature is necessary.

Until next time

Dezzie 2022

Succulants – Dee Grant 2017

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