Antique lithographs add beauty to any home. In addition, these works of art can be quite valuable. The problem arises when you are trying to research your piece and aren’t sure where to find information about the artist. There are several avenues open to the amateur art collector that will allow you to discover the history and value of your lithograph and its artist.
Decipher the artist’s signature. This step may be trickier than it sounds. Some lithographs are signed in the picture itself, while others have a pencil signature in the margins of the piece. Often, the signatures are hard to read. If yours is difficult to decipher, try to figure out variations of the signature and research all of these spellings.
Look through artist guidebooks. Once you have an idea of what the artist’s name might be, hunt for it in an art guidebook. These books offer biographical information on artists, details regarding where their work has been displayed, and prices realized on pieces that were sold. Some of the most well-known books are the “Benezit Dictionary of Artists,” “Davenport’s Art Reference & Price Guide” and “Who’s Who in American Art.” These guidebooks are expensive reference works, so your best bet to find copies is through a public library, a local art dealer, or a museum or university reference library.
Do an online search. Using a search engine to research your artist can often lead to helpful information, though weeding out what is not useful can be time consuming. Remember to type in all the possible variations of the artist’s name if you are still unsure of the proper spelling. Also, look at sites that sell a large volume of art, such as eBay, and you may be able to find current and previous sales of your artist’s work.
Check auction records. There are many online sources for researching the auction records for artists. These records can help you to identify the importance and collectibility of the works of the artist. Most of these sources do charge a membership fee to use their complete services, though you may be able to find an artist’s dates and pictures of his or her work for free. Some examples of companies that provide artist auction records are AskArt.com and Artprice.com.
Consult an art expert. A call to your local museum can put you in touch with experts who may be willing to help you identify and find out more about your lithograph and its artist. If you believe that the piece may be valuable, consider consulting an appraiser for a full professional evaluation. However, realize before setting up such an appointment you will be charged for this service. To find a professional, check with the International Society of Appraisers.
Shelia Odak has over 10 years writing and editing experience for consumer and trade publications including "Radio/TV Interview Report." She has worked for over nine years in education and holds a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Odak writes on a range of topics including education, literature and frugal living.