Researching Your Art 

Want to learn more about the painting you found while clearing out the attic? What about the drawing that has been hanging in grandma’s hallway since you were a kid? Maybe the sculpture you found at the flea market last summer really is a Remington. How can you find out?

For answers, be prepared for a little detective work. We hope these tips and resources will help you begin, but remember that these lists are not exhaustive. Whether you research a family heirloom or a yard-sale find, the process can be rewarding.

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First Steps
Like any good detective, begin with what you know. Gather the following information. What is the title or subject of the work? Where and when was it made? If you do not know the exact year, perhaps you can guess an approximate date. How long has the work belonged to you or your family? Check family records and interview relatives who might know something about the artwork. If you recently acquired your treasure, try to obtain as many details as possible from the seller, dealer, or previous owner.
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Biographical Resources
Learn how to consult biographical resources when researching your art.
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Signatures, Monograms, and Markings
See a mark or signature you cannot identify? Learn how to identify marks, artist signatures, or monograms with these resources.
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Exhibition Guides and Provenance
Learn how to find out about an artwork's history by tracking it's provenance (the location of an artwork prior to its current ownership) and exhibition guides.
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Encyclopedias and Surveys
Learn how to research your art by consulting relevant encyclopedias and surveys.
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How Much Is Your Object Worth?
Learn how to figure out how much your antiques, artworks, and other collectible items are worth.
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Want to Research Prints or Find Posters?
Do you have a print that you want to learn more about? Since artists often use printmaking media to create “multiples,” how can you tell whether what you own is an original print or a reproduction copy?
A painting seen under three types of light in the conservation department
How to Care for Your Collections
Regardless of the monetary value of your artwork, if it is personally meaningful, you should consider having the object conserved. It is very important to have trained professionals do the job. Your local art museum, gallery, or historical society can recommend reputable conservators in your area. For guidelines on selecting a conservator and a list of professional conservators in your area, contact the following organizations:
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Want to Learn More?
Learn more about how to find information on materials, terms, and techniques.