Every once in a while … the painted portrait of a complete stranger is completely captivating.
Where you purchase your vintage portraits will have an impact on how much each piece will cost—garage sales on one end and art galleries on the other—but there are other factors in the work of art itself that influence its price.
• Condition: Flaking paint, rips or punctures to the canvas and markings will all lower the value of any artwork. The visible signs of age can add to a painting’s charm, but if complete perfection is your goal, factor the cost of restoration into your budget.
• Artistic Quality: As often as we think “my five-year-old could have done that” when we look at works in a museum, the mistakes made in amateurish art and absent from the work of more refined talent can be unsettling. Or, conversely, appealing! Expect to see portraits with greater detail carrying a higher price tag.
• Media: Oil portraits are generally considered the most desirable, followed by acrylic and watercolor. Sketches in pastel, charcoal or graphite will be significantly less expensive.
• Signatures: These little inscriptions are worth noting. A recognizable signature means the piece can be researched and, if the artist is recorded, a price point can be more accurately evaluated. and cause us to wonder what each sitter is thinking. We create stories that suit our perception of their personality and, in doing so, become familiar with someone we’ve never met.
These stories told in the expressive faces of portrait paintings lend themselves to the overall narratives we create through our interior décor. The interpreted intelligence of a person with bright eyes and thick glasses fits right in with the studious ambiance of a reading nook, whereas the flirtatious spirit seen in unruly curls and a knowing smile creates a completely different mood.
As with any work of art, consider how these pieces will work with the room as a whole when choosing where to hang them. Displaying one portrait alone increases that character’s importance in the surrounding space, perfect for showing off a painting that is large, highly detailed or depicts a unique personality.
If you plan to assemble a collection, coordinate a theme that unifies the group as a whole. Look for pieces with similar color palettes and brushwork, or create a grid-like gallery wall by using canvases that are all the same size. For a more whimsical take, limit the display to portraits of people with similar attributes, such as men with impressive facial hair or women and their pets. In the end, a home filled with portraits is filled with character.