Valuing Works of Art
Researching and Valuing a Work of Art
It is entirely possible that a work of art that you own – a painted portrait, an antique statue, an old
print, or even a more contemporary piece – has a great story behind it. Here are a few resources that
may help you determine the history and value of your treasure.
Finding Information on an Artist
If you are sure you know the artist’s name, you may find some information in the following
resources. Not all artists will have literature written about them, but often you may find information
on artists working in the same style, during the same time period, and in the same place.
Artist Biographies Master Index
N 40 A78 1986 Fine Arts Library Reference
This index is the best place to start your research. It will guide you in finding thousands of sources
for biographical information about artists, many of which are available here at the Fine Arts Library.
Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart
N 40 T4 Fine Arts Library and PCL Reference
This 37-volume German language set, also known simply as the Thieme-Becker, will prove
indispensable in your search for European artists working before the middle of the twentieth century.
If the German language abbreviations are a problem, consult Valerie Meyer’s Index of the most
common German abbreviations used in Thieme-Becker’s Kunstler-Lexikon (PF 3693 M494
Fine Arts Library Reference).
Benezit Dictionary of Artists. / Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres,
sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs
N 40 D5213 2006 Fine Arts Library Reference
This 14-volume set is the first English language edition of this 1999 French publication. It serves as
a guide for information on biographies, auctions, and artists’ marks.
Signature and Monogram Books
If you are unsure of the artist’s name, but have a sample of their signature or monogram, these
guides may aid in the identification of that artist.
American artists: signatures and monograms, 1800-1989
N 45 C37 1990 Fine Arts Library Reference
Artists’ monograms and indiscernible signatures: an international directory, 1800-1991
N 45 C374 1991 Fine Arts Library Reference
Classified Directory of Artists’ Signatures, Symbols & Monograms
N 45 C36 Fine Arts Library and PCL Reference
Dictionary of signatures & monograms of American artists: from the colonial period to the
mid 20th century
N 45 F35 1988 Fine Arts Library Reference
Finding the Value of a Work of Art
Often the best resources for researching the value of a work of art are auction catalogs. You may need to look through more than one year to find when an artist’s work was most recently at auction.
N 8610 C555 Fine Arts Library
Gordon’s Print Price Annual
NE 85 G67 Fine Arts Library Reference
Mayer International Auction Records
N 8640 I527 Fine Arts Library Reference
Holdings of the Fine Arts Library cover sale dates from the 1970s to the present.
Printworld Directory of Contemporary Prints and Prices
NE 491 P77 Fine Arts Library Reference
N 8640 S62 S62O Fine Arts Library.
Current issues shelved in Current Periodicals area.
Electronic Auction Resources
Provides access to 21 million auction prices and indices for over 300,000 artists as well as
information on artist’s marks. You must subscribe to gain access.
Provides biographical and market information for American artists. You must subscribe to gain
Christies.com and Sothebys.com
These online auction resources allow searches by important criteria for auctions dating back five to
six years. Searches can be done by name, auction title, category and date.
Results found on eBay will most likely differ greatly from more reputable auction sources. This site
archives auctions only 30-90 days after the auction ends.
The Getty Provenance Index Databases
Allows searches of European and American archival documents, sales catalogs, and public
collections. Periods of coverage are 1500–1990.
After exhausting all resources, you may want to consult a qualified appraiser. Check The
Appraiser’s Association of America Membership Directory or the American Society of Appraisers for an appraiser near you.