The Debate Continues – Should Artists Date Their Work?

Little did I know that when I posted yesterday’s article, Debate: Should You Include a Date on Your Artwork?, I would ignite an extended conversation on this topic and that it would quickly become one of the most commented upon posts on the blog.

Apparently the question of whether or not to date your work is high in artist’s minds. Many of you agreed with my position that overtly dating art isn’t the best policy for artists striving to market and sell their work through commercial venues. There were also some great counter-arguments made.

I would like to respond to one of those counter-arguments in particular to continue the discussion and further explore some of the issues related to dating artwork. I’m choosing to respond to this particular comment because I feel it’s author has articulated very well the counter-arguments I often hear on the other side of the debate.

Reader Jeffrey Neumann wrote:

Jason, if you or any of your respondents, have placed work in museums you will know that the date is important. In this thread I see a chorus of artists who seem to all agree with your advice to omit the date or hide it on a work of art. I am disappointed that you would advise artists to be evasive. I’m also disappointed so many folks here are like sheep following your lead. I am astonished that I am one of a very few (perhaps from responses you chose to print) that does not agree with your advice.
Let me be a lone voice in support the curator who disagrees with you. Artists have been dating their work for centuries -more often than not. Why do you think this is? It is not just tradition. It is not only important to museum curators, but also to serious collectors who may want to place a work in the context of an artist[‘]s career. There are copyright, provenance, and authenticity issues that also make it wise to date your work. I’ve been a selling artist for over 40 years and a gallery owner for six. I have always dated my work and have never lost a sale by doing so. If artists and gallery owners are so insecure that they have to hide the date the work was created in order to make a sale, they must have a weak connection with their customer.
There is no need to be disingenuous with a customer or anyone else about when a piece of art was made. Not dating your work could also be viewed as unprofessional or worse, a sleazy tactic to hide the truth. Smart buyers will see through this, damaging your reputation. Being [elusive] about dates is dishonest – period. Honesty is the best sales policy and should be the only policy. Leaving the date off a piece of art is a personal choice, however it is an unbecoming one.

Mr. Neumann raises some important points in his comment and brings up questions that I suspect most artists will wrestle with as they are deciding whether or not to date their work.

Before I respond to those points, however, I would like to respond to Mr. Neumann’s implication that we are only approving comments that agree with my position – this is absolutely not the case! I love the open and honest discussion that occurs in the comments on posts, and I feel that those discussions are richest when there are a variety of opinions expressed.

We do moderate the comments, but the only ones we don’t approve are those that are overly combative, rude, or contain explicit language or attempts to intimidate. We also don’t approve comments that are an attempt to advertise products or services, or are spammy in nature.

I would point to the fact that Mr. Neumann’s comment was published as evidence of the fact that we want to encourage discussion and contrary viewpoints. The fact that most of the comments on yesterday’s article were in agreement with my position on dating is a reflection of reader’s opinions.

With that out of the way, let me dive in and respond to the points in the comment.

Museums vs. Galleries

First, the notion that dates are important to those seeking to place work in museums. Mr. Neumann is correct in his implication that I haven’t placed work from our galleries in museums, and that, if we had, I would have a different perspective on the issue of dating. I agree with this assertion, and I think this points to an important tension for artists who are trying to decide whether or not to date their work.

The prevailing opinion on dating artwork in the museum and academic world seems to be that artwork should be dated. Dating clearly facilitates the curatorial process.

I argue that the practical realities of the commercial art market are different than those of the museum and academic world. Museums are optimized for preserving, cataloging, documenting and displaying art work. Galleries should be optimizing to creating sales.

As I said in yesterday’s post, I believe that in the interest of optimizing for sales, it is in the artist’s best interest to omit the date.

Dates and Museums

Mr. Neumann also argues that artists have been dating their work for centuries, and that they include a date “more often than not.”

I have spent a tremendous amount of time in museums, and I’m not sure my experience supports this claim. Certainly there are many, many artists who have dated their work over the centuries, but in my visits to museums I see many examples of works without a date.

I’ll throw out a few examples here of some of the most famous artists throughout history that have created works without dates:

Caravaggio
Caravaggio

 

The Mona Lisa is neither signed nor dated

 

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas

 

Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne

On the other side of the debate, there are certainly also many great artists who did include dates:

Rembrandt
Rembrandt

 

Sometimes Monet would sign his work . . .
Sometimes Monet would date his work . . .
and sometimes he wouldn't . . .
and sometimes he wouldn’t . . .

So what do these examples prove? Perhaps not much. I would argue, however, that omitting a date on the work will not preclude your work from one day making it onto the wall of a museum, as these examples prove. The date may facilitate curation, but it is clearly not a prerequisite.

Collectors

Just as museums will display the works of artists whether or not they are dated, I find it hard to believe that a collector is somehow less serious because they don’t insist on a date on a piece of artwork they acquire.

Copyright, Provenance and Authenticity

You should always consult an intellectual property attorney before making any decisions about protecting your copyright. With that said, it’s my understanding, after having had several conversations with IP lawyers, that you are not giving up any copyright if you omit the date on your work.

Mr. Neumann is right that there would be benefits in terms of establishing the provenance of a work to have the date readily available. I would argue again that the same benefit can be found in keeping good inventory records.

In terms of authenticity, I don’t see how a date establishes the authenticity of an artwork any more than the signature does. A forger can duplicate and invent a date even easier than a signature.

Impact of the Date on Sales

Mr. Neumann further states that he has been an artist for 40 years and owned a gallery for six and has never lost a sale because of a date. I congratulate him on this record.

I have been in the gallery business for over 20 years and have witnessed buyers objecting to the age of a work of art on a number of occasions. Will a date always kill a sale? Of course not. Can it have a negative impact on a sale? I believe there are cases when it can.

I further agree with several of the commenters on yesterday’s post that galleries prefer to have newer work. Rightly or wrongly, it’s only natural that a gallery would feel that you aren’t providing them your best inventory if you ship them works dated years in the past. “Why can’t I get any fresh work?” you will hear them ask.

The Ethics of Not Dating Artwork

As far as the assertion that not dating your artwork is unprofessional, or, worse, “a sleazy tactic,”  I will have to completely disagree. An artist who doesn’t include a date is simply keeping the focus where it should be, on the artwork.

I have sold many hundreds (if not thousands) of artworks without dates over the years. I have found that when there is no date, most buyers won’t even think about the issue. And why should they? If the artwork is well-executed and suits a collector’s interest and passion, what difference does it make when it was created?

We’re not hiding the age of the artwork, but we’re not going to advertise it either.

Conclusion

To sum up my thoughts and feelings about dates, I would simply say that while I believe it is optimal for an artist to keep track of dates in their personal inventory system and not on the artwork itself, I don’t believe that the ultimate success of an artist’s career will be determined by this one issue alone.

I do not assert that a date will kill every sale – instead I argue that if a date has a negative impact on even one out of one-hundred sales, the cost is too high for any benefit derived from dating the artwork.

I also recognize that some artists will find the counter-arguments persuasive and will perceive enough potential benefit in including a date to decide to continue dating their work. I don’t believe that these artists are making a career-ending mistake.

My hope is that this debate has given you solid arguments on both sides of the discussion to help you make an informed and well-considered decision. I truly appreciate all of your comments – there is real wisdom to studying out an issue like this and making a decision informed by all sides of the debate.

My personal position as a gallery owner is that none of the arguments raised by Mr. Neumann, or by other’s who have made them before, have convinced me that there is any benefit to overtly dating artwork that would outweigh the risks that come with dating your work.

What do you Think?

As I stated at the beginning of today’s post, I value the open and honest conversation each of you brings to the blog. Let me know if you are persuaded one way or the other after reading about this debate, and please add to the discussion by sharing your experience and thoughts.

 

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

102 Comments

  1. I always date my paintings. That said, if the painting is still in the studio it is always vulnerable to be touched up or changed. In that case, I put multiple dates on the painting.
    My paintings are a product of my time on the planet and are influenced by the events that effect my life and my paintings as well.

    There are a finite number of paintings that I will make in my life and that will help future generations better understand the time that I lived in.

    Yes, date your work!

    1. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, especially with the comment about our limited time on this earth. I have been dating my work recently and will continue to do so.

    2. Thank you Ken! I, too, add another date if I make significant amendments. If the date of a painting is the only thing standing between a potential buyer and the sale, what makes the sale happen is how the potential buyer is handled. I think if the situation is that delicate, the gallery ought to call in the artist for a face-t-face conversation with the buyer.

    3. Today is March 29th, 2019…
      Yes I also Sign and Date my works on the front and back, and even the hand made artist mounts I make even if made years later.
      I also Photograph fronts and backs and inventory that number on the back of the art.
      ( Picasso often dated his works the day of the month he painted them, I love seeing the date and love seeing the signature and the date and knowing the artist age and birthday, and the world history at the time).
      I make my art, I own my art by signing it.
      How many works of art are never signed and unknown and thrown away to landfills.

  2. I always date my work, on the back, I only put my name on the front, this is because I often cannibalize my older work and make it into something completely different and I have to re date it and sometimes this gets messy. But there is always a date on the back. I plan on my work being in museums one day and while I like to sale my work I also want to be upfront and have a clear record of when it was painted, I will often add the season or seasons it was painted in as well. Just my 2 cent.

  3. I have always dated my art with the two digit year. Primarily for my own archiving purposes and for the big picture of establishing provenance once I’m dead. As far a I know it has not impacted my sales. I have very defined periods of work/series in my painterly oeuvre so in that regard it makes sense for me to date.

  4. I think the idea of dating varies depending on the type of art one creates. Painting a “real” landscape, especially en plein aire or from a specific sketch, a date is part of the picture’s identity. Abstracts, on the other hand, often have little or no connection to a specific point in time.

    On the other hand, a potter friend of mine deliberately doesn’t date his work. He doesn’t want his work looked at as a timeline with people pigeon-holing his work into “emerging,” “mature, “etc. phases (as we all know academians are wont to do).

    For me, it’s a simple matter of where I exhibit most, signatures and dates are required, and they only look for them in the corners of the front (that means signing on the bak or incorportitng it into the artwork doesn’t count).

  5. Contemporary artists that exhibit mostly in museums tend to create works in a series, so in that respect dating the work would be important. In a gallery situation some artists work in a series, sometimes that is included in the title, but if it is not in that case a date might be helpful to collectors who are interested in a particular seriese. This thread relates to a question that I would like to see addressed some time: What are some important strategies for artists create large scale work that is more time consuming. Some artists produce high quality work in a higher price range, but less than a dozen pieces in a year. Would dates be a plus or a minus in this case?

    1. Thank you for that insight Pat. I have a western series I have been working on for 6 years. My first pieces have been considered too old.

  6. I am curious if you would, as a gallery owner, be upset if you found out later that an artist submitted older work along with newer pieces. Or, do you go by the work and not demand work done within a specific time frame? I have only shown in a gallery once, but was asked for recent work. I hope to approach some galleries in the near future, so I am very interested in this discussion.

    1. Exactly Joi – unless you tell me otherwise, the work is new to me, and it’s new to my collectors. I suppose some gallery owners might feel a twinge of dissatisfaction if they later found out the work was older, but I’m not sure how they would find out. I recently let an artist know that I was happy to receive older artwork from his other galleries for our show of his work. I was able to do that because the artist doesn’t date his work.

      1. As to how one would find out when a work was done…

        There is a tremendous amount of information on the internet that we artists have created along with many of our works of art. Many successful artists keep blogs, and they may go back ten to fifteen years. It is easy to do searches for titles and even images and discover the date of creation of many works of art. Even if the works were never dated, there may be an online record. I know artists who have documented every single painting they ever created.

        I have been blogging for close to ten years and have often posted photos of my completed works and works in progress. I may still go back and change a painting and the date may be changed as well. But if completed, it is dated (in code) on the back and often documented in my blog and on a 4″x6″ with a photo of the art.

        In addition to blogs, there are art discussion groups focusing on specific mediums or types of art. This same discussion about dating works of art has taken place on those forums for over fifteen years that I am aware of. Many of the artists in these forums have photos posted and those photos have dates—another way to determine date of creation.

        It is also possible to do an image search on google. I have found my paintings on other websites doing this search. As long as there is a link to my website or blog, I consider it free advertising. These can often be blogs with dates so this is another method to get an idea of the time period of creation.

        Without the internet, I can see how a museum curator may have had a greater difficulty with determining when a painting was created. Now it is much easier for them with contemporary works of art! There is so much information that now it is a matter of condensing the knowledge one has so it is useful!

        As for myself, I have been working with a process of painting that few artists have been using. When I discovered my techniques, I could only make a design element about the size of a quarter. Going on twelve plus years, I have now discovered how I can make a unique design element 24″ in diameter. At first I worked very small—less than 6″ square with one to two inch elements. Now I can work as large as any other painter and my techniques still work. I am mentioning this so if someone ever wanted to track my progression, as long as he knew this tidbit of information, he could determine within a few years when a work was created since the size of the design elements gradually increased as time passed.

        I have been using a method of signing the backs of my paintings for several years now. The year is hidden in the code and I only code it when it is leaving my studio. I usually title it at the same time. Until then, it sits. I may decide to change an element and that may change the entire painting and I do not want it to have a date that may be a year or two old before I release it.

        Thanks for this discussion. I am with you on not explicitly dating a work of art. I will not be worrying as to whether a curator can figure out my art ‘periods.’ If he’s smart, he just needs to do a little detective work!

      2. The date is not as important as the work to me. If an artist such as myself has changed the way that she/he works that is evident. What’s more important that an artist did the work or how he has evolved over time? If the artist is being researched, and has worked in different media such as painting in oils, watercolor and printmaking then decided to work in sculpture, because he/she hasn’t found his niche, what’s most important, again I say the date or the work. I have dated work in the past, because the curators wanted the info when submitting to a call. I say to each his own,

      3. Jason, does “I was able to do that because the artist doesn’t date his work” mean that if I submit work for your consideration and it’s dated, I’m less likely to be accepted? Because that’s sort of what it sounds like from the above post. And if that’s so, then what happened to the idea of your judging the work solely on its own merit?

  7. A short story – I was closing my aunt’s estate. Very little of her collected artwork could be tracked, established, valued, or attributed to an artist because each artwork had indecipherable signatures. Everything about every piece was in her head . Now it is lost to time. Lesson learned. Now, I send information into the future and write everything down onto the back of every artwork. I sign and include all information of every piece on the back. The title, a clearly printed name, medium, web site and a number of each piece on the back. My date is often just the year – but I might add the season or month. I also write a little about what I was thinking when creating the artwork. Someone in the future will read it.

    1. I agree completely – I have helped close several estates, and art works with indecipherable signatures, no dates, and no other information on them are extremely difficult to have appraised. This definitely impacts the heirs. Quite a few artists sign on the front, then add additional information, often including dates, on the backs of paintings. I also work with fine craft, and these pieces very rarely have dates if they are handmade. This then requires a huge amount of knowledge and work on the part of the appraiser to determine the history and value of the work. Many artists are not good at record keeping, and if the artist is, the buyer may not be. If nothing else, jotting notes on the backs of works, and using legible signatures is incredibly helpful down the road. Again, with fine craft this becomes much more of an issue, as many craft media do not lend themselves to an easy addition of signatures and/or dates 🙁

  8. I incorporate the date I paint my work into an inventory number on the back of each piece that is decipherable to me but not necessarily to someone else. That way if asked I can provide the date, but it is not readily available for the reasons Jason stated. I also keep a log of when things are painted that includes that number.

  9. Years ago, in the 60’s, my father, also an artist, told me to sign my paintings with my first Initial and last name because I was a female artist and females did not sell as much or at the higher prices that male artists sold at. So, for years I signed my paintings L Kodwyck and noted that other female artists in our area (Newburyport, MA) did the same. So, the art works that we female artists did was still easily identified as being done by female artists. Male artists were collected and we females rejoiced over occasional sales.

    Fast forward, I now sign my paintings with my maiden last name, period. Just like my father. Along with this change, I stopped dating my work several years ago because I am so often involved in shows, etc., where we are asked to show work that was painted within the past two years – which I do. But for show purposes where I may include works or demo pieces created more than 2 years ago, I simply do not date the front. However, I do date the back (oil paintings) as well as indicate where or who and whether the piece is plein air, etc. The provenance is on the back. Things change. Do what is right for you. Just don’t stop doing art!!!

    1. I sign my work P. Kirkham for the same reasons you stated, Lynda. I believe it is still true that male artists are taken more seriously, especially by museums. After 27 years of marriage, I got a divorce, but kept my married name because so many pieces were signed with that last name. I’m not sure if using the first initial of my first name tips people off to the fact that I’m a female. I would love to know what Jason and others think about this. As far as dating my work, I don’t anymore because parts of each painting are highly detailed, so I can’t produce as much work as an artist who just does abstract or impressionistic work. I don’t want to feel so pressured to sell work before it’s considered to be too old.

  10. I am a fine art photographer and have never had a customer ask me when a photograph was taken. My viewpoint that it is best to not have a date on a piece of art that shows on the front. I have seen some painters not only put a date on the front but also a copyright symbol which I do not understand. I do not think if an artist has a date on the back of an art piece or a reference code that relates back to the artist notes where a date can be looked up, that this would effect sales.

    If a customer is interested in when the art piece was completed, I would have no problem giving the customer a year. I usually give the year that the photograph was created (was worked on and printed) and not the year that the photograph was taken.

    When I sell a photograph, I now include a certificate of authenticity that has the date on it and the customer can choose to attach it to the back of the frame or canvas print if they want. Before I included the COA, I added the date to my matted prints between the two mats. If I was giving or selling one of my photographs to a Museum, I would at that time add a date to the back of the artwork since I know that they consider this important, but from my experience, my customers do not.

  11. Some artists are the same artist, start to finish; others aren’t, they have ‘periods.’ Some people prefer an artist’s earlier work, some later.
    I never thought about dating my work until I began entering it in shows that required the work be “less than three – or whatever – years old.” Then I thought about not dating it. But it’s art, not bread. It doesn’t go bad. (It doesn’t even stay bad if it is, sometimes. Mores change.)
    Because my memory is crap and because I like the idea that I only created mixed media work between 2012 and 2014 and did abstracts for one year, etc., and so on, and because I cherish my process and know that the people who want my art value both me and my process, I decided on dating it.
    I don’t “miss an opportunity” to get into a show that only wants new work, they miss my work.

  12. Growing up looking at art, I remember it always signed and dated. Never occurred to me not to do the same. But this discussion opens up an interesting view I will consider
    Thanks

    Jora

  13. I have been reading your blogs now for several months and am impressed with the forthrightness of your statements, your opinions, and find the responses a great learning experience for me. In the start of my career as an artist I dated all my paintings, but found out , that many shows will only include works from the last 2 or 3 years, and the one I would like to show would not apply any longer. So I have been leaving off the date, but feel a little like cheating. Am I ? At one of my last shows a patron looked at some work of mine and said: I saw that a few years ago and liked it, now that I see it again and am still enamored I’ll purchase it. So the date didn’t matter.

  14. I stopped dating my work when I did outdoor shows because selling an older work is difficult. In that venue, the buyer thinks older work is inferior. They want the artist they buy from to look successful, and having older works makes an artist’s work seem stale.

    Anyway, if I haven’t made it into museums yet, I doubt I will. I do date commissioned works on the back. I think collectors who commission work appreciate documentation.

  15. I do not agree with Mr. Neumann that idea of not dating the work is cheating the collector. If it were a gallon of milk then maybe yes. Monet’s work would be no less valuable if it does not contain a date. On the the other side of this we could be equally dogmatic about the idea of a date needing to be “painted in”, only arms another with the ability to discriminate a body of work from another. There are so many ways to catalog artworks that painting it in seems a bit much. But to each his own!

  16. I don’t like dating paintings, which generated a huge debate in an art organization I belong to that required signatures and dates on all paintings put up in a “group” display. The no-date side prevailed, although we lost the signature requirement battle. I don’t agree with the argument that museums need the date, either. The Charlie Russell Museum is near where I live and they’ve been able to date many of his lesser known works by style. I haven’t dated any work for two years, but I do keep an inventory of it. My paintings have my signature on the front and the backside has my inventory number, which I keep in an Excel file and print each year. Anyone who figures out my system would have no problem figuring out my completion dates. My inventory starts with a letter. Last year, it started with A and this year it starts with B. The next number is the week in the year (1-52). The last number is the sequence number. So, if I finished a painting on January 1, 2016, the inventory number on the back reads B1.1. As the year progresses, so do the numbers: B22.41, B35.72, etc.

  17. Instead of letting the date scream out with my signature, I sign in Roman numerals next to my signature, but if the painting is small I sign with an initialed monogram. The paintings are also signed on the back with charcoal or carbon pencil: title, date, medium, size, and painted it (pinxit)–Artist American, born —-. The back signature is then sprayed with a fixative. Pinxit is Latin like the numerals as archival and is similar to delineat, sculpsit, fecit, etc.

  18. I almost responded to this thread yesterday but deleted my comments because I didn’t want to seem anti commerce.
    But I think that this is the heart of the matter: are we creating art for sale or are we simply creating art?

    If the former, then I suppose any tactics will do to sell the stuff, wether it be shoes, cauliflowers or images.
    The most successful dealers I know are literally superb salespeople & can get the deal closed. I doubt if they care about date or even name.

    If the latter, then every bit of information is important & the date (or dates) can be an informative part of the artist’s narrative.

    I don’t believe it is a matter of ‘overtly dating artwork’ either. After all, a couple of small numerals next to a name is not necessarily off-putting but it makes me wonder what else you are hiding if you don’t fill in the dots. (& yes, some scrawled signatures definitely do not help the overall

    And what happens when the piece enters the secondary market? How do I know it was made at the height of your creativity & you haven’t just knocked off a pastiche of your best selling period because your property taxes are due?

    Oh,what’s that?
    You don’t care, you just want the sale?

    Sorry to seem so annoyed by this but I have to wonder about us getting bogged down in the minutiae. .

  19. You made it easy for me to avoid the issue by creating the ArtTracker software. I keep all relevant information about dates, etc. there and, when someone buys one of my paintings, I provide a Certificate of Authenticity for it that includes a photo of the piece and relevant information about date, media, etc. All that info is readily available from the software, even years after a piece is completed. I use a liner brush to put the name of the painting, media, and my signature on the back of the canvas, but I do NOT put the date. I have seen people reject older pieces (except when in a retrospective show–and then older can be better, but only then).

  20. I have the feeling that most comments here are by painters and about dating paintings. I would respectfully suggest that the art world includes more mediums than that and that the dating issue with many mediums gets cloudy real fast. Can you find a date written on the sand and rocks for Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”? Can installation art be dated as it is re-installed again and again in a different venue? Photography, my primary venue, is very problematical. Is it to be dated the day the picture was taken or when the picture is printed? As a digital artist I may take several photo images and digitally grab small pieces and collage them together to make a new final image. Then is the date when the original images were taken, when I collaged the digitally together, or when I may have printed them onto paper or canvas. Or if I send an image to the west coast for a print on aluminum is it to be dated when the metal print is made? I do realize dating may be an issue for painting as there often is a date at which the painter stops work on a piece, and that establishes the date. But even then if an artist years later takes and makes modifications of a painting then what is the date? My point is that the date of an artwork may sometimes be very arbitrary and in some cases not even applicable to the creation of the work. So perhaps it is best to just connect a work with an artist, know when they probably created it, and if there is a date on the work then that’s O.K.. Dating is something a art historian does, not necessarily something an artist needs to do to make a piece authentic. It’s the work that’s important, not necessarily when it was done. And also show me a major museum that will turn down undated art works by major established artists.

  21. I totally agree with all your points and counter arguments raised Jason. Although I would like to date my work all the time, the only time I now date my work is when it is a guaranteed sale such as a commission. Thanks for your very informative and blog.

  22. I have always dated my paintings as well as my one of a kind jewelry. I never had a problem selling the paintings (or any giclee prints made from them), but it has affected the sale of some of the jewelry pieces when people have perceived that there must be a reason why it did not sell right away. I will have to say, however, that the people not wanting to purchase an older piece has usually been people buying for galleries or gift shops rather than the customer who will take the piece home.
    I have always felt that the art piece will speak for its self as well as create an emotional response from the person ultimately purchase it. I have often wondered if I may benefit from leaving the date off the work, but as of yet I can still see equal amounts of pros and cons on the subject.

  23. If an artist submits his/her art to shows or to art contests…often called “cattle calls” where you pay $35 to enter two paintings and $15 for each other, there is always a statement in the rules of entry stating something to the effect that the work must have been done within the past two years. If you play this stupid game (oils can if heavily painted, can take longer than two years to dry). Don’t date the piece! Lie and state a date within their dumb “rules”. Give yourself a break. Many of my works were done in the 1950’s-1960’s and have an increased interest and presently greater sales value. Praise be the day I dated them!

  24. I have a solo exhibition at a major Gallery coming up this summer. I asked the Curator this very question. Both she and the person in charge of collections said yes- please date the work- on the front or the back. If you become ‘famous’ or a piece joins a collection, this helps the Gallery substantially.
    I have all my work professionally photographed. My images are placed on a CD, and I add to it as paintings are finished. I issue a new CD each year. It is easy to see what piece was painted when, when I look at the CD, but this won’t help buyers when the paintings are sold. I feel we should be proud of when we painted something. Historically, photographs or landscapes can be significant to indicate changes in the environment, or capture changes in architecture and styles of landscape etc. so dates could help here.

  25. Somewhere along the line, I learned to sign my paintings on the front with my name (or actually in my case, initials) and on the back, I sign it with my full (legible) signature and the date. Sometimes the title, too. I keep track of them on my computer, too, but once they are sold, a look at the back will be all it takes for someone to know who created it and when.

    And Jason, if you happen to read this, when I read the post by Jeffrey Neumann, I didn’t get the impression he was suggesting that you were culling posts. It was more that he was accusing the rest of “us” of not thinking for ourselves.

    Great discussion!!

  26. I am quite pleased with the examples you found from museums Jason. In my personal experience, dating artwork is almost always used against us. If someday one of us or all of us are in museums, it will give the curators something to figure out about our career if they have to Sort It into approximate periods and dates. I wish I could date my artwork on the artwork, but have decided it is of no benefit to the artwork ever finding a new home. Also, if an older work happens to fit into a newer show, all the better. I recently sold a 15 year-old painting at a show I had. It fits into the show perfectly and I almost did not add it because it was older. Obviously, I am glad I did. Sometimes I wonder if we are supposed to throw out or burn our old work. It seems as though no one wants it in public collections . In a way it has a shadow of the consumerism thing, newest is always best. Not so with Art!

  27. Being a pragmatist, I believe that MOST of the art being sold in commercial galleries will never end up in a museum. Galleries are in the business of selling art, much of it decorative, and “new” sells more easily than “old”. Everyone wants to think they are getting the artist’s most current work. As for which artists end up in museums and the art history books – different criteria apply, and dated art probably isn’t critical.

  28. Having interfaced with the public quite a bit, I come down on the side of not dating on the front. Put the info somewhere on the canvas back. In my experience, most collectors are not as high-minded as the museum director. Too early in the buying process, they get needlessly hyper-focused on that date on the canvas front. They see “older” work as somehow less valuable since someone else hasn’t already snapped it up. This can be frustrating in light of recent economic fallout, or slow markets, where paintings can take longer to find their perfect homes. Now if the artwork were perishable, like a food item, then it would be necessary in fairness to the collector to put a date on the front, and imply a sale-by-date, a date when it is no longer consumable and loses its qualities. But art created with good materials and practices has no such shelf-life…hopefully its quality lasts decades, possibly centuries. So I don’t think it is dishonest not to put the date front and center. Hey we aren’t talking about phone or computer technology that shifts rapidly, we are talking about an age-old craft. Now when submitting work for museum or public collections then the date will be somewhere on the piece, and can be included in the label and documentation at that point, and the artist can place the piece exactly within his/her oeuvre.

    I do think that we artists should not bluff about a piece’s age when entering juried and other shows that specifically ask for work created in a certain time frame. Be up front and observe these restrictions.

    By the way, I have been fortunate to place older but strong paintings that for whatever reason had never been exhibited or had their day. During the selling process, I am up front and do let the collector know that the work was from much earlier series, my New York period for example, but this is accomplished in conversation, not with a date on the canvas. That way the history of the piece has meaning, and can even lend it more value.

  29. I date my work sometime, and sometimes I don’t. I think I date work that took me alot of time and thought more than simpler less time consuming stuff. I think that to a living artist whose goal is to sell his work, the only date that is really important is the date of sale for tax purposes. The date it was made is irrelevent in this context. If my work should somehow be of interest to museums after I’m dead then I say to them you should have bought it when I was alive and I would tell you when it was made.

    1. Bravo to Pete Mastro!! I read so many comments in this thread and his made me smile. Let the museums hire curators in the future. There will always be art history majors in need of work. Artists who expend their time and effort creating art now, need sales now. Since for many success comes post-mortem, let the future unravel the past.

  30. I dont date my work now but in the past had remarks that they considered anything old inferior and would not buy. Why do buyers get distracted by a date.? Also why do shows insist on accepting work only produced within a period if in fact it has never been shown at all. If I dont date and havent shown the work before then who will know or care when it was made

  31. I sign only my last name on the front of my paintings, but write the date on the back as well as a copyright notice. I keep a database of all my paintings with full information about when it was painted, dimensions, exhibitions and awards, when/where sold, jpegs, etc. So after I’m gone, if my heirs, a museum, or collectors should be interested in those details about my work, they will have the info they need.
    However, while I’m still painting and breathing, I don’t want any extraneous information (e.g., date) displayed in a prominent place that might discourage a potential buyer who likes the art itself. If a potential buyer asks for the date, I have no problem giving the information and can explain the painting’s place in that part of my artistic journey; I’m happy to provide full disclosure if someone thinks it helps to evaluate the work or my development as an artist. Early on, I did include a year on the front, but had a personal experience that changed my mind: I was traveling in France and saw some local paintings during a short visit to a gallery. I was considering purchasing one of the paintings when I noticed that the date under the signature was 15+ years before. My immediate reaction was, “if he was doing work this good then, what is he doing more recently; where has his art taken him? And would I enjoy his newer work more?” Since the gallery had only those few paintings, I reluctantly made the decision to pass. Had I not known the date, I probably would have been happy with the purchase, but I couldn’t ignore that extra knowledge I hadn’t asked for. So now, I don’t want one of my potential buyers to be put in that same situation.

  32. I would like to pick up on some of the points made by one commenter (Stan Bowman), in that dating a work can be a pretty tricky thing when dealing with media other than painting. I create ceramic murals, which may not only take a bit of time to create, but may take even longer to put together for a final installation. (The ceramic pieces can sit in boxes for years!). In other cases, I may create a mural after a pencil or watercolor sketch from years ago (lets say, the 1990’s) or may have altered the original composition of the sketch/painting for a ceramic piece. How would you date a piece like that — give it the date of the original idea, the date the ceramic pieces were created, or the date of the final installation?

  33. I always date my art on the back. I am not interested on having my art in a museum as I want to sale my art. Many galleries, ask for recent art work so I always date with the month and year on the back of each piece.

  34. What is wrong with “older work”? A painting of mine completed about 7 years ago just sold last night. I did not date it, warned by gallerists that people only want the “latest.” My painting had been shown a few times over the years ( I was always hoping nobody would remember) but last night for some reason it was the right venue and the right person came along who loved it. Maybe a date would have prevented the sale–or maybe not. My husband married me even though he is 7 years younger. I thought it was by far one of the best works I had done, so I persisted in showing it even though my style has developed in some different directions in the meantime.

    Now I am entering a judged show in an art association I belong to. One of the requirements for entries is that it be completed in the past year. Why? I have paintings that I think would have a good chance in such a competition but I completed them a couple of years ago. Do I trash them? Are they now worthless because old?

    Also I once donated a painting for a charity auction, because I thought it would do well. Works in a similar style had previously done well. Trouble is my current style and medium had changed. So my donation was rejected by the screeners not because it was not a good painting but specifically because it was not an example of my very latest work.

    These examples are to point to a prejudice of currency as opposed to an appreciation of quality. What’s the big deal? Shouldn’t there be a timelessness to good art that gallery sales representatives emphazize, rather than bowing to the typical commercialism of marketing the “latest” to be ahead of the crowd?

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I, too, find those who “judge” in such a way (“old”, “not current”, etc.) are likely also the very same folks who only buy art for ego. I’d rather have a piece sit for years than have it go to someone who only wants it for it’s “value”. As I posted (below), I’m certain that a piece will sell when “the right eyes” find it. Thanks for your lovely articulation.
      Cheers!

  35. I use an inventory number. If someone wants to know the date, I will be very happy to check inventory and give them the date. I do not date the painting itself. I am with Jason on this.

  36. I’d love to hear from collectors WHY they think dating a piece is a negative. If we dismiss sales entirely and evaluate the work on its own merit, why is this such a big deal? It is a bewildering premise in the first place.
    Art is not fashion, it is not trendy. It is not dependent on what is currently in vogue … at least it shouldn’t be. We are not vendors who produce the newest popular “thing” that is out the following season. We should be creating timeless works, not ephemeral pieces that have the shelf life of last years roses.
    Dating a work? My God, WE have a birth date! I’m not last week’s news either. If I feel the need I will date a work … forget sales. The piece itself means more.

    1. I tend to agree with your comments. I also notice that you don’t have dates on your work either (at least not on the front). As you say the choice is always yours and should not be an issue and should not matter either way. I agree, however we live in strange times. Unfortunately if you take notice of what the critics are writing and what is going on in the lofty world of the auction rooms, museums and billion dollar collections you will notice that fashion, trendy, and the flavour of the month is very much the case at the pointy end of the art world and it has always been this way.
      By the way I am a bit of a fan of your work. Beautiful stuff.

      1. Thank you. I date some pieces if it is relevant. The Pueblo man (Morning Sun, dated) is representative of an era. Others I wish I had, and may still … the river scene (Summer on the Blanco) no longer exists after the 2015 Memorial Day flood that killed so many and changed the region forever. It was painted two years prior.
        All works have location and date on the back for my own records.

  37. What an amazing response to the date no date issue. Some replies remind me of a political campaign. I have read all pros and cons and I still think there are no real benefits in placing a date on the front or back of a painting. There are more compelling reasons to not display dates. Keeping an up to date and detailed inventory will be of more benefit to someone who, on the off chance, may be interested in when the work was created.
    Time to get back to work.

  38. Yes I used to date my work in the front. Since the early 90’s I no longer date in the front for the very reason Jason pointed out. Now I sign in the font without a date and sign it again in the back with a date , with the title and at times with an update when I choose to change part of the painting or completely transform it . Then I add the need title, the new date and I sign it again with copyright mark. All these changes are clearly noted on the back and clients are fascinated to read the history of the painting .
    All that being said I am now collecting images of my older work going back 50-60 years (I’m currently 74) and I’m so glad to read the year next to my name. So my conclusion is : date the work if it feels good and it serves you and don’t date work if it does not feel right and no longer serves you.

  39. How about not even a signature? I studied Buddhist sculpture in Japan. This is a quote from my teacher, Koukei Eri, “In the West, sculpture, like most forms of art, is viewed as a medium of artistic self-expression. By fixing his name to his works, the artist seeks to manifest his individuality – as well as to seek eternal recognition. With Buddhist sculpture, however … what is important, is for the artist to devote himself wholeheartedly to his task in an attitude of benevolence. That’s why you will find no signature or seal on a Buddhist image.”

  40. Its very simple, The closer the artwork is to being a decoration the less important to have a date.
    The closer the artwork is to being a influence on the history of art the more important to have a date.

  41. I date my work. I agree with a lot of what you say Jason but I’ve previously found that my clients actually seem very interested in knowing the date. I always explain the story behind a piece and myself so the date is relevant. However it’s not that easy to make out. For me I’ve found that reputation trumps whether a date is included or not. If you are in demand and your artwork harder to get, the date doesn’t matter.

  42. As in the example given above–the Mona Lisa–that one painting has perhaps had one of the greatest influences on the history of art, and it is neither signed nor dated.

    Anyone who even casually follows the art world knows that there are many signed and dated (and sometimes, even “authenticated!”) works of art by famous artists that later turn out to be forgeries…signed, dated, even authenticated: fakes.

    So it appears in the real world that signing and dating isn’t actually relevant to being accepted by a museum (the Mona Lisa) or having an impact on the history of art, and signing and dating can be accomplished by a competent forger and authenticators have a history of getting it wrong.

    My patrons like my art for what it is, and have never been put off if it was not dated, and most don’t care if it’s signed or not. If I was world famous I’m sure a signature on my work might be a bragging point for the buyer showing it off to their friends or fellow collectors, but if I was world famous they would buy my work and brag about it whether or not it was signed and dated.

    The practical reality is that many people do view “old” art as equaling inferior art, and many galleries keep that flame alive by demanding to see only your most recent work. If you don’t believe that to be true then begin to enter lots of art competitions where many place restrictions on older art by including in their rules of entry that submitted artworks must have been completed within the past year or two, for example. Many galleries will demand that when showing work you send or bring only your most recent examples.

    So again I agree with Jason’s sound and reasoned arguments, especially from a sales perspective.

  43. I agree totally with Jason and have stopped dating my work some time ago. I do keep my own inventory and have no problem supplying a date when asked or have no wish to mislead and if a gallery or show requests work produced in the previous 12 months that is what they get. However I see no point in drawing attention to the age of an older work when it is not necessary

  44. I always dated my artwork over the last 50 years and believe it is the hallmark of timing in an artist career for museums collectors and curators and yes, even galleries. And I have seen artists with undated work slip into theme exhibitions and recent works only showings , with work I have seen long before the required date while the rest of us take up the submissions challenge. I am proud of and share my old work on my Facebook page as oldies but goodies. I think that if an artist believes they have a lasting career and are working to leave any kind of legacy, they should date their work for archival work later.

  45. At one point I had over 60 paintings without signature or date.
    I felt a mild annoyance with the persistent urging of several friends to SIGN YOUR WORK. DATE IT. At that moment in time and space, the necessity to keep painting was of paramount importance. Some were never given any information.
    It seemed unimportant.
    I realized this habit was due in large part to my hatred of visual distractions of the written word on a piece.

    I concluded that placement of the written information on the piece, the signature itself, the color of said information sometimes created a diversion. Thus I began signing and dating (YEAR ONLY) away from the image in the most unobtrusive way possible.

  46. I sign or scribe into wet paint very small my name on the front. On the back I sign again with my inventory # which is the date I finish the painting- i.e. #03.o5.16 and A or B if more than one that day. Keeps things simple for me. I also go over board and add a handprint or fingerprints on the back. The new technology of 3d printing of my earlier paintings screwed-up my gallery sales back in 2007-08. Had to stop painting my best selling series… The handprint was my rebellion.
    I’m starting to get more requests for info and authentication of earlier works, It’s difficult to think back 30 plus years to what I was doing then…a date would have helped me now.
    I agree with Carolyn Bedford!

  47. I was surprised at the responder who said she herself didn’t buy a painting because it was “old” and was concerned she might like newer work more. If you like a painting, buy it! Who cares what other works the artist might have!

    Second, a caveat to those artists who think their blogs and other computer records are sufficient. Ignoring the obvious issues of losing information, technology changes at the speed of light, and what is cutting-edge today is obsolete tomorrow. Try getting the information from your current CD via an old record player, for example. I have a computer program to keep track of my work, but I also write it down on paper. Yes, paper/papyrus/vellum is vulnerable, but ancient examples still exist.

    I have also started signing and dating my work. I work in fabric, and looking at it from the “quilting” mode, signing and dating is rare. But I decided that if fabric works were to be taken as seriously as other media, it should be looked at from the “art” mode instead. I now sign and date unobtrusively in a corner. If somebody doesn’t want to buy my “old” work, oh well. . .

    1. I too keep a handwritten file/record. Included are prints of the artwork. This is in addition to a digital record. In the event of computer or CD/drive disaster, it is a logical safety net in my view.

  48. If you decide to date the painting, there are lots of options. You can put the date on the back. If it’s a stretched canvas, on the side. You can date it in Roman numerals. You can encode the date, and leave it to the historians to have the fun of decoding it. You could date it in binary code. You could decide that every painting painted in a certain year would have a certain animal somewhere in it or on the back, like Chinese astrology. You can put the date on a COA instead of on the painting. IOW you can have fun and get creative with dating your artwork.

  49. I vote with the curator who started all this discussion . I fully understand her/his stance on this.
    Considering the expedient present (not having a date on the art in order to get a sale from some collectors) may be at the expense of the future of the artist’s oeuvre . If potential buyers are so concerned about the date, perhaps some gentle education about why that is short-sighted may be useful.
    While putting the date is no longer common practice on the front of the work, it is still appropriate, and I would say, essential on the back on the Authentication Certificate, as part of the copyright notice. I note that very few so far has mentioned the use of the Authentication Certificate or equivalent. Amazing.
    The AC is the artist’s covenant with the public as to the identity of the artist (name, city and/or country) title, size, medium, Provenance including that the work is original, and any useful/important details, all relevant archival info, and most important the copyright designation (such as, ©date+ your name). In the case of photo-based art, where an older photo may be transformed into a newer work, there may be more than one date for the copyright. Without this info the estate of the owner or artist cannot verify who ,what, where, date medium, etc. for valuation by the appraiser. A real mess. Yes there may be an inventory, but such things can be “edited “ nowadays, so additional evidence may be required. The inventory “code” may help, but does not have the same authority as the copyright notice. The copyright notice puts the artists oeuvre into whatever art period, and is important for historical, curatorial, estate valuation, and after-market resale purposes. Maybe you don’t think your work is “important” enough for this, but you and your heirs may be surprised later on!
    Imagine a would-be collector rejecting a Pollack, Moore, Picasso, or Monet during their lifetime, because the art was “too old”! Would they or their heirs ever feel foolish now… An artist can produce a masterpiece at any time in their life. It is not realistic to assume that only the past 5 years “count”. Say an artist has been producing art for 50 years, surely you would not believe that out of that 50 years as an artist, the first 45 years (=90%) do not “count” re what is salable? Even famous artists have unsold works many years later. That does not make those works unworthy or unsalable.
    When one buys art, it should ideally be for the following reasons:
    1. You fell in love with it
    2. It is good quality re imagery, concept, use of medium
    3. It is produced with archival materials
    4. It is signed by the artist (preferably on the front of the work)
    5. It has an Authentication Certificate which can be affixed to the back with the date(s) on it.

    The date is NOT a consideration in the salability unless you are looking for a particular earlier “period”.

    Jessie Parker

  50. I am not at the point where I have works in a gallery, but I do participate in local area juried shows frequently. One requirement for entry into some of these shows is that your work must be recent (in the last 2 years). For the most part, I comply with the requirement, although occasionally if I’m entering a show for the first time and I have a really good painting that has not been in a show and it happens to be 2 1/2 years old, I will still enter it. If I dated my paintings, this would not be possible and an opportunity to show it would be missed.

  51. Just wanted to weigh in on the discussion of dating artwork. I always sign and date my paintings. Maybe it is a result of having an MA in Art History, maybe it is to track my progress as an artist. One question that came to mind is: How can an artist have a retrospective exhibit if the artwork cannot be tracked by date? Doesn’t there need to be a beginning and an end date? In addition, I have exhibited with groups where the guidelines require new work (2 years or newer) and am convinced that participating artists are submitting and exhibiting much older work with no visible date on the piece. Without the date on the artwork, how can this be monitored? And as for a collector not wanting to buy “old” artwork, I know artists can and do sell their older work – sometimes discounted – to their collectors but it is still sellable. Anyway, just saying…

  52. I commented yesterday and this retort doesn’t change my decision to not sign or date my work, but someone made a comment about not incorporating signatures into the work. If that’s a bad thing, look back at the Carravagio painting. His name is incorporated in that painting.

  53. I only date commissions. I work on paintings over several years. I finish one and if it hangs around, maybe work on it more, layerings become totally different paintings over the years, so dating it the first time I think I’m done makes no sense. Most of my work does not sell until it is at least 5 years old. I don’t know if it needs to ferment or I’m ahead on my time.

  54. I consider a photograph I print for exhibit and possible sale to be the result of two creative steps: (1) the moment of seeing and making the image, and (2) the dark room work and printing process (conventional or digital). I have several series of photographic prints for which the dates of these two creative steps differ by a few or even several years. So, if the “date” of the work is to be disclosed, which is the correct date to select? Or should one list a date for making the image and a second date for printing?

    1. Larry:
      I am also a photo based artist and like you sometimes there are a few years between the photo and the making of the art. You can use 2 dates (or even 3 ) on your copyright notice on your Authentication Cert. I consider the date of the art work was finished(digital darkroom) to be the most important date, in case you want to use only one date. After all the original photo is only the start of the creative process for the photo based artist, same as it would be for the painter who works from a photo,

  55. Thank you, Jason, for both excellent blogs on the dating of artwork. For a long time, copyright law required that the date and copyright symbol be included on the work of art with the artist’s signature in order to be covered against copyright violation. Thank goodness this is no longer required; I suspect that curators/collectors simply got used to seeing it there and made their own assumptions about why it was there. In reality, my work most often dates itself, as I keep exploring, learning, and growing with each painting I do.

    Every now and then, though, I create a piece I simply can’t bear to sell. At least not yet. Right this moment, I have a couple of very strong pieces from the 1990s that are beautiful and have excellent compositions. I have enjoyed them long enough and would be fine with showing them, but they are dated on the front, so I cannot. It’s OK, because I do love them, and studio visitors love seeing work they didn’t know existed; however, I no longer date the fronts of my paintings. I sign, date, and copyright symbol the backs, which are entirely hidden by the framing. Perhaps the curators out there would be happy with that.

    Whether they are or not, art is communication. Who am I communicating with if excellent paintings cannot be hung where people can see them for so inconsequential a reason as a date?

  56. So, when is a painting “finished”? I have the annoying habit of “reworking” older paintings as my skills improve. I may revisit works from 2008 or earlier and “update” them. I believe that the pieces are enhanced, at least according to my standards. I have always said that a painting is never finished until it is hanging on a collector’s wall out of my reach. Furthermore, if someone wants a “recent” work rather than an older work, can I add a few more enhancing brushstrokes and say that “the painting was finished in 2016”? I believe that many of the masters revisited their paintings over decades in many instances.

      1. I agree with Dia and Theresa. I often find myself working again on a painting I first felt was ‘finished’ only to decide one, two, three months or more later that I finally see what has been bothering me about the piece. So back it goes onto the easel. Then I have to take new photos, etc. Still, I will re-date in my own records, not on the piece itself.

  57. I like both sides but when I date my artworks I focus only on my feelings, If I want to date It I do so If not I dont

  58. I always date my artwork. The dates indicate what frame of mind I was in at that time of my life. As I always try to put my heart into my art, it is important for me to remember how I was emotionally while I was creating that piece of artwork. The dating documents my life’s journey. I will always date.

  59. I am a sculptor and I keep a careful inventory of my work with dates but I don’t put the date on my work anymore. It has nothing to to with “sleazy”. It has to do with the current American art market that only values the NEW, the LATEST. I have been making art for over 40 years. I tend to work on a series of work for 5 – 15 years. I work slowly and thoughtfully and my work evolves though many different processes. I resent it when I’m applying for a show that my work of 15 or 20 years ago fits perfectly but the prospectus says work only done in the last 3 years. The work I did 5 or 10 or 15 years ago is still good work. The honesty is in the work.

  60. This topic created a lot of stress for me during the years I was a painter and continues to do so as I make ceramics. I taught art full time and attended grad school for many years and I know plenty of artists struggle with a balance of employment, children, etc and their need to make art. Not wanting to use oil paints in an apartment, it sometimes was years between periods when I could focus on making art. I actually didn’t have enough paintings that I was willing to part with but I wanted to show, and competitions require work to be from the last year or two. One of the grad professors made remarks that I was still “doing the same thing” when I returned to his class after a few years AND he was a judge at a members’ show and knew my piece wasn’t new. It really stung because they sure don’t approve when we change all the time (this blog makes that clear), and I expect he had the same style going himself! But for me it’s like time stopped and I would pick up where I left off — and would today if I painted again! With my ceramics, some of my best, most sculptural pieces have been around for several years because good exhibition opportunities are few and far between, and I don’t stuff my booth with them or submit them for everyday art fairs. ..On the flip side of that, a potter I know submits slides from 20 years ago with things he never makes any more, gets into prestigious art fairs, gets on the posters, etc. with those slides every year, but has plates/cups/bowls in his booth. So it is a struggle to present our work in the best way, and honest way, but time zips by and sometimes our very best work is still in our garage! I have been glad to see this discussion — commenting late because time went by while I was thinking about it!

  61. Times have changed. A good curator would be able to know the date by the artists work. If a buyer/dealer wants a date the information is available. We do have the internet.

  62. I date my work. It has been suggested to me by a gallery that I should not do so. I actually had some collectors ask for a huge discount because they said the pieces must not be popular because they were three years old. and still available.

    1. Yes, I have seen that happen with an artist friend. A discount expected because a piece is older? That that was even expected astounded me. Why a collector would think older work should be cheaper doesn’t even make sense. And if the older work is a style or medium the artist no longer works in, it is now rare.

  63. Please, take the apostrophe out of the title of the blog piece! The plural of artist is artists, no possessive, no apostrophe!

  64. sometimes I put the date at the back.
    sometimes none at all , I don’t even remember when,
    sometimes it makes me happy guessing when,
    my mind flies back in time. Now, facebook timeline helps .

  65. I appreciated reading this article and the comments.
    I remember this being a pressing issue for me as I was starting fine art as a career choice, I was academically trained to date my work, but it only sometimes felt right. I don’t know why. Like mentioned by Jason, it felt as if I was advertising, making a point with the time almost integrating with the painting itself. Which is unnecessary distraction. The idea of “hiding” something is silly and never even crossed my mind. I still feel right in not dating my work. I’ll leave that to the historians.
    One thing I’ve learned from years of painting is if it doesn’t feel completely right, it shouldn’t be forced to work.

  66. I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I appreciate the variety of positions. As someone who has taught art history for over forty years, I would like to weigh in. An aspect of art that we don’t alway consider, particularly when we are talking about marketing and sales, is reflected in a this Latin phrase, “Ars longa, vita brevis “. We are caught up in daily life, including making a living. I encourage my young art students to think about the big picture (pun intended). Every time they create a work of art, whether it is a sketch or a finished painting, they are creating a family heirloom. They are also creating cultural heirlooms that represent who we are, as a culture, at this time in history. For the generations to come, whether they be only the family or the larger community, we owe it to posterity to date our work, on the work, so it will not be separated from the art work in the future. By the same token, we ought to sign our work with a legible signature. The signature and date do not have to be on the front of the art work, but they ought to be there. I’ve been asked to identify the value of pieces of art that the person came into the possession of. I’m not a licensed appraiser, but I know I’m dead in the water without the name and often the date of the piece of art.

  67. My dear gallery director has appreciated my years of exhibiting nationally and Internationally. He understands my dedication to my many students over the years. Funny thing as you continue on, some of this falls away and you still continue. I have moved on and still he (my trusted gallery owner) stays with me over these many years. Yes my work has become what I have always wanted it to be and he continues to support and surprise me by his welcoming and open enthusiasm. For me that is just what an adventurous artist needs.
    We all continue to enrich ourselves and our work as the result. Do not be anxious over the changes that will enevitably occurr who knows how many times. Just continue to research your process and in the end your gallery owner will see it. And of course keep a daily work diary and keep track of your daily work hours and what happened in your studio. This in itself will feed your soul and continue with a structure to nourish you even when your work maybe interrupted by one of those life interruptions. Keep on and do not allow those outside the work of painting to dissuade you. You are most definitely gifted and here for a reason.

  68. Thank you for this thoughtful discussion. I have often wondered whether I should include dates and have not been consistent with putting dates on my paintings. However, I keep a record of all of my artwork and the year it was completed. If a piece is reworked, I note that in my database. I sign the front of my paintings with my initials only (as my name is very long and would be obtrusive) and put my full signature on the back.
    It’s always interesting to read the varying opinions.

  69. I stopped dating my work a while back. Found out that it is not an issue for any of my buyers that the painting is not dated. But in the past dating my paintings created some complications. When the paintings were dated (a year or more) some buyers used it as an excuse to bargain for a lower price.
    I agree with Jason, an “older” dated painting doesn’t mean that it is subpar in quality or relevance to the more current work. Sadly, it is not seen that way by your average buyer.
    I keep meticulous personal records, for each of my paintings, that include dates. The day I am no longer on this earth and a museum decides to take notice of my work, they can then match the dates to the paintings to their hearts content. 😉
    Jason, as always, insightful blog!

  70. EXHAUSTED! LONG READING!…I think, for myself that I covered both bases even though I am quite sure it may sound a little goofy to some…I sign the front (no date)
    then resign the back and superglue a brand new penny with the year date the painting was completeTreasury releases the following years penny. Thank you Jason.
    Chris

  71. I don’t date my work but never considered it to be a problem. For a while did not even like signing the paintings on the front since ‘my scribbly name’ is not part of the image; though I do sign them now as I gave in to the wish of interested buyers. Regarding dating, I neither avoid dates in order to ‘fool’ a gallery or buyer nor do I consider myself to be following like ‘sheep’; and actually really dislike those implications. But, I do acknowledge the possibility that a buyer will be swayed by a date rather than by the image itself, wanting something ‘newer’. Any buyer or collector can easily ask for a ‘letter of authenticity’ which would have the date of execution on it, anyway. In addition, for me, as I expect is true for most contemporary visual artists in this era of social media, it is really easy for anyone to track the dates of my work, since I post my work constantly. It is all out there for anyone to see.

  72. Well, this certainly has sparked some lively discussion! I think it’s good to see both sides of the coin, so to speak. And as a fledgling artist, I can honestly say that for me it was never about whether or not the date might impede a sale. For me, it’s about dating my work so I can not only see my own progress (AND evolution!) but also because I’ve already had people tell me they like knowing “where I was” when I created the piece. I suppose when one is dealing with galleries there would be a host of considerations that one might otherwise not need to consider. But, in my case, I’m not painting FOR the galleries (or its patrons), I’m painting because I MUST. If someone prefers not to purchase a piece that’s “older”, that is certainly their prerogative. I am of the mind that the piece will be sold to “the right eyes” when the time is right. I don’t worry over any of the rest of it. Too time consuming and most certainly NOT part of what I consider to be any semblance of a “creative process”.

    I do, very much, appreciate your posing this to us, and all the many who offered their perspectives.

    Cheers ~

  73. Fascinating discussion – thanks to all who participated! I’d have to say my opinion is that dating, or not dating, is as much a personal preference of the artist as anything. To say a piece is less desirable because it’s an older work is awfully hard to prove one way or the other. I’ve actively sought out older works by artists I like and/or know, because they fell within a style or subject matter that artist may have only done for a short time, but that I really loved.
    While I agree, selling in a gallery presents different challenges to selling at auction, or curation in museums and academia, any given piece has to be able to stand on the merits of its subject and execution, regardless of when, and by whom, it was created.

  74. Having spent many yrs. visiting San Francisco and LA art museums and gazing at some of the most famous paintings in this world without dates, I choose not to date my artwork. Adding the date seems to me to be over-the-top w/too much info. I believe that any addtl info takes away from the work, itself. I do believe that it is very important for an artist catalog, however.

  75. Funny to think of. If you found a painting at a yard sale that said 1879 you would be super excited about an incredible find. Then again if it says 2004 you might think its a left over or throw away. To be in a museum and see a piece dated 1620 or something boggles the mind thinking about its travels through history. I dated one piece of mine 1976 when I did it. having recently re acquiring it from my mothers house it helped me to remember when I did it. It’s the way we think about things these days. We don’t want last years model, or something used, unless of course there is monetary value attached. Only the condition of and beauty of a piece should matter ultimately. Unless your highly successful your paintings will probably hang around for a year or more. I can definitely see Jason’s point in that case, that it might be a negative in someones viewpoint. As an artist I like seeing a date . If you appreciate fine art it shouldn’t matter a whit. If it bothers someone maybe the piece doesn’t really appeal to them. If your a realist painter it attaches the image to a very particular point in time

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