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11 Things that make oil paintings valuable

There are countless reasons that oil paintings have this status and these are the top 11.

Oil paintings undeniably have a value assigned to them but the question comes down to this: why? When you visit here to take a look at oil painting reproductions or even visit a museum to take a look at the classics, what gives them such a high value?

There are countless reasons that oil paintings have this status and these are the top 11. 

1. Originality

If anything is going to drive up the price of an oil painting, it’s going to be how original that painting is. That’s why pieces like Last Supper and Mona Lisa are so highly valued – they’re technically proficient and, at the time they were released, like nothing the world had ever seen before. It’s also why an original painting is so much more valuable than a reproduction. 

2. Authenticity

There is also a value assigned to specific artists who work with oil paints. Much like the originality of these paintings, the painting has to be genuine as well. While legitimate reproductions are often assigned a significant value, illegitimate reproductions are not and a fake painting is highly frowned upon.

3. Significance

Another thing that will impact the value of an oil painting is its significance, especially historically speaking. For instance, even a perfectly done piece of art created by someone today won’t have the same immediate value that’s assigned to a masterpiece like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel because over time, historians realized the significance of Michaelangelo’s work.

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4. Provenance

Provenance refers to the history of ownership of an oil painting. In the end, high-profile owners lend credibility and value to an oil painting whereas less impactful owners do not. For example, if an oil painting came from a famous collector or was held in a museum, art historians would consider it much more valuable than a painting that doesn’t have this provenance.

5. Physical Condition

The physical condition of a painting also affects its value. If a painting is heavily damaged by the sun, water, or even more intensive damage such as a tear in the canvas, collectors and art historians won’t consider it anywhere near as valuable as a well-preserved painting. Much like almost anything else one can purchase, higher quality equals higher value. 

6. Typicality

It makes sense that master artists like Monet and Da Vinci come at a higher value than a relatively unknown artist. It also helps if these paintings display techniques that the artist is typically associated with. Take Monet for example. His art that displays more instantly recognizable Impressionist techniques is more highly valued. 

7. Subject

The subject of a painting can also change the interpreted value. While this can refer to the meaning behind the painting, there are subjects that generally rake in a higher monetary return. Paintings of women, as an example, typically sell for more than paintings of men. Yet, certain famous paintings break this mold while relatively unknown artists’ works tend to comply with these trends. 

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8. Meaning and Subject Matter

As was just mentioned, the meaning behind a painting can also change its value. An oil painting with a traditionally “deeper” meaning often sells for a higher price than a painting that simply renders an image directly in front of the artist. This can mean a visual interpretation in the sense of a direct message or how the artist interprets a scene (like a landscape) that they’re seeing or picturing. 

9. Artist Backstory

It actually isn’t just the fame of an artist or their reputation that can affect how lofty their name is signed on the bottom of a painting. Interestingly, the more engaging and, often by proxy, more tragic backstory. One of the best examples of this is Ride of the Valkyries by William T. Maud. It was one of his only oil paintings and he died young, making his life interesting to learn more about and increasing the value of his piece. 

10. Rarity

Oil paintings are also often priced for their rarity which is another reason that originals are more valuable than reproductions both legitimate and otherwise. This is a reason why a masterpiece like Last Supper is highly valued – it’s not only technically proficient and deeply meaningful but also completely one of a kind. 

11. Visual Power

While it may seem simplistic, there is a monetary value in how a piece of art looks when it’s on a wall. This goes beyond whether or not the artwork is visually pleasing, though. Does it draw the idle viewer in? Does it work simply as a statement piece or does it go further and evoke strong emotions from the viewer? The more impactful it is, the more valuable it’s considered. 

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There are plenty of factors that play into how highly valued a piece of art is. From the way it looks on a wall to the artist behind it and even who’s already owned it, there are a myriad of things that collectors and art historians consider when they’re assessing the value of an oil painting. 


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