Famous artists throughout history such as Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Frida Kalo, and many more have added signatures to their art. Many artists’ signatures have become so distinct that they’ve even made their way onto modern merchandise (in addition to their paintings, of course). But what is the purpose of an artist’s signature and why do many artists continue to add signatures to their art to this day?
Signifies the Art is Finished
One reason that an artist will choose to add a signature to their work is to signify that it is completed. As an artist in any capacity can attest, it can be incredibly difficult to consider a piece of art complete and not be tempted to go back and make edits or improvements. There are many times where you even wish someone would snatch the paintbrush from your hands because you can’t stop yourself from trying to make your painting absolutely perfect. Artists also know that, from our perspective, perfection rarely exists and we shouldn’t be trying for it. Therefore, for some artists, adding their signature is like putting a period at the end of the sentence so they can move on to the next one.
Dating the art
Historically speaking, adding a signature can help to date your work (even if you don’t add a date, as some artists choose not to). Many famous artists such as Pablo Picasso changed their signature over time and it has allowed art historians to better date their work. For example, Picasso first used the signature ‘Ruiz-Picasso’ and ‘P.R. Picasso’ before adopting the underlined ‘Picasso’ signature that he is most recognized for. So even if you decide on a signature now and end up changing it later, it may actually work to help track your work over time.
Adds artistic value
An autographed baseball is worth far more than one that is unsigned, right? Similarly, a painting that is hand-signed by the author holds value and authenticity that it wouldn’t otherwise possess. Although some artists prefer for their work to remain unsigned for aesthetic purposes, a signed work shows critics and buyers that the piece has been hand-painted and curated by the artist directly. Even when it comes to digital art, a recognizable artist signature can significantly increase the selling price.
Helps prevent art fraud
Unfortunately, as it happens in life, fraud also happens in the art world. Having a distinct artist signature can be an excellent way to help prevent art fraud from happening with your work. When art is being authenticated, curators and historians will look at an artist’s style, brushwork, subject matter, etc. to see if they feel it matches with the artist’s other works. In addition to those aspects, however, one of the main ways to authenticate a work is by comparing the artist’s signature to their previous works. While it may be possible for another artist to mimic your artistic style, it is unlikely that they will also be able to perfectly forge your signature. This will make it much more likely for curators to spot a fake if it pops up on the market.
The final reason many artists continue to choose to sign their work is artistic tradition. While many historical artists’ work remains unsigned, a shift toward signatures occurred in the Renaissance period. Artists began to focus more on their artistic individuality as opposed to the guild system. This is when artists began to add their signatures more often to allow their artwork to stand out from others and, by the 20th century, this became common practice. Many artists continue to sign their work to pay homage to these artists and their inspirational work.