Born in 1834, Edgar Degas contributed much to the Impressionist movement of art. He deemed himself a "realist" or "independent," creating drawings and paintings during his life that showcased artificial light, including renditions of cafe scenes, theater scenes and ballet dancers. He worked in a variety of art forms, including photography, sculpture, engraving, oil painting, and pastel and pencil sketches. Forgeries often appear on auction websites such as eBay, where unsuspecting buyers purchase fake drawings. Art experts utilize a variety of scientific and artistic techniques to detect forgeries.
Examine the drawing strokes of the piece. The true works of Edgar Degas typically boast lines with a right angle, as compared to a completely straight line. Because the angle is slight, forgers often neglect its addition — it can be the telling sign between an authentic Degas drawing and a forgery.
Scrutinize the signature. Not only should the signature obviously match that of Degas, but it needs to be the type of signature he used during the particular time period when the painting was created: His signature changed as time passed and became softer; a drawing purported to be from his later years should reflect this.
Compare the drawing to other works by Degas during the same period. They should match the Impressionist style and show the same themes of movement and light. Older drawings are less crisp because of the eyesight problems Degas experienced.
Commission laboratory work to analyze the colors, whites and paper of the drawing. Degas used specific colors — these tests show whether the colors in your drawing are ones Degas would have used. Use a reputable lab that is able to conduct such tests without compromising the drawing.
Test the piece to ensure it matches the purported age. Laboratory tests such as carbon dating may help decipher the age. If the tests reveal that the drawing was created in the last few years, then it's not a Degas work.
Hire a professional appraiser or art expert to examine and authenticate the drawing. These professionals posses the training, education and skills to evaluate the piece and tell you whether it's authentic. Such an expert may work for an appraising house, an individual business, an educational institution or a museum. He may also examine any documentation that comes with the artwork. If the documentation originally came from a museum, the Degas family or another authoritative entity, check with the appropriate party to help ensure the artwork's authenticity.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Edgar Degas (1834-1917): Painting and Drawing
- Yale University Press: Edgar Degas
- California State University: Edgar Degas
- The Art Institute of Chicago: Edgar Degas
- Chicago Appraisers: So You Think You Have a Degas
- WebMuseum, Paris: Degas, (Hilaire-Germain-) Edgar
- The Art Newspaper: The Silence of the Degas Scholars
Suzanne Rose has worked as a copywriter for more than 10 years. She has served in various positions for advertising agencies and marketing departments, with work appearing in print and online publications. Rose specializes in topics related to parenting, crafts, health and business. She holds an M.B.A.