Identifying reproduction paintings

the_scream_mug-p168350160203512202b2gfh_400Many paintings have been reproduced. Reproductions range from the blatantly obvious to the more deceptive. I assume I don’t have to explain to you that the Mona Lisa on your umbrella isn’t the original. However reproductions can be more realistic, can be on canvas, framed and even with fake brush strokes. A number of well known artists have had their paintings reproduced. Leroy Neiman and Thomas Kincaid come to mind.

Identifying a reproduction is usually easy, though there might a few bit trickier instances. The following are a few things to look for:

** A fine color dot matrix pattern under high magnification. A photomechanical or digital reproduction of a painting or photograph will translate the original into a fine pattern of different tiny color dots. With strong magnifying glass or microscope examine a magazine photo or picture postcard to see what this dot pattern looks like. A painting is made with brush strokes of solid paint and will not have this maze of dots throughout the image. If you’ve identified this dot pattern you can stop. It’s not a painting. It’s a reproduction.

** With an oil or acrylic painting, there will be physically raised brush strokes that you can see and feel. Like a relief map. If you run your finger across the original Mona Lisa or your neighbor’s acrylic landscape, you’ll feel the brush strokes.

With watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor) paintings there will be no such raised brush strokes, the surface can feel smooth and the painting can be on regular paper. This makes reproductions of these paintings more deceptive before you take a close look. Happily, that tiny color dots pattern under magnification will always give it away a reproduction.

In some professional reproductions, clear paint is added over the top of the print to simulate raised brush strokes, but upon examination the fake brush strokes won’t match up with the graphics and, looking closely from the side, the coating will be clear. These clear brush strokes are intended more as a superficial coating than anything to deceive. And you should still be able to see the tiny dots pattern through it.

** If a painting is supposed to be an acrylic or oil painting or anything with heavy paint, turn the painting around, put it in front of a light source and see how the image looks from behind. Oil and acrylic paint is an opaque, often thick substance and will block light (of course, then, that’s what opaque means). With a real oil or acrylic painting and its heavy paint, some parts of the image you can see while others will be completely blocked out by the paint. WIth a lithograph or digital print on canvas or paper, you should be able to see the whole graphics fine– as there is no paint to block the light.

*** The real Starry Night doesn’t come in calendar form or in 8×10 six packs at Target.

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