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Fine Art/Identifying artists


In general, how can I identify the creator of a painting. For instance, I have a painting by an artist who only used his initials MCP. Where do I begin to research who this is and the potential value of the painting?

Dear Jonathan, It usually takes good detective work and experience to identify the creator of a painting, and sometimes that is not enough. My general method is to first determine the approximate date of the painting by examining the support (board, canvas, wood panel, stretcher bars, etc)and the amount and type of craquelure on the surface of the painting. Next, identify the national origin. Again, the support will give clues, different countries use different canvases, panels, stretchers, etc. Also, any inscriptions, labels, customs stamps, canvas stencils, or fragments thereof will also offer clues. And, obviously if the subject is German monks, Napoleonic soldiers, or Liverpool harbor, this would be indicative of the origin.
Let's say you have determined the painting to be Italian, executed sometime between 1860 and 1890. You can then browse through art books for Italian paintings of this era. Most artists have similarities to their peers, then you look for anything particular to your artist (his landscapes always include a thistle plant, or his women always wear the same type of lace, etc.)An example would be portraits by Gilbert Stuart. His subjects always have rosy cheeks, life-like flesh, and slightly distorted mouths.
Once you have gotten this far you can start matching your initials with names.

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Daniel A. Hynes


Collecting, buying, selling, identifying, and caring for paintings, drawings,and watercolors (19th and early 20th century American and European). No prints, contemporary art, or works executed after 1940.


35 years as a fine art dealer, including 3 years as a gallery director. Also was art expert for Leslie Hindman's Auctioneers, and for Dunning's Auction.

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