Video – Ask a Gallery Owner: The Pitfalls of Dating Your Artwork

In this video, I discuss the pros and cons of dating your artwork. I argue that for artists who are seeking to promote and sell their work, dates don‘t offer any benefits and potentially cause some problems. I suggest that artists keep track of the age of their artwork using a sound inventory system and that they omit dates from their artwork when displaying it for sale.

Do you date your artwork? Are there other factors I should consider regarding dates on artwork? Have questions you would like me to answer in future sessions? Leave a comment below!

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, 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.


    1. While copyright law is above my pay grade (always consult the appropriate IP law professional when seeking legal advice), my research has shown that artwork is protected by copyright law whether the symbol and date are included or not. There are benefits to including some formal notice of copyright on your work and even more significant benefits to formally registering your copyright with the Copyright Office.

      1. From Legalzoom:

        On works published before March 1, 1989, using the notice was required by law for protection. Generally, for works published on or after that date, using the symbol became optional and a published work can still have copyright protection without it. [May 2, 2022]

        This was news to me, as I always assumed you must use the (C) symbol. That being said, I don’t see it harmful to include a lone (C) near your signature, while omitting the date.

        If you wish to protect your work below a certain level, you must register your work with the US Copyright Office — it’s relatively inexpensive to do so, each of my works are registered in that manner.

    2. It’s dated advice. Back in the day, writers were told to put a copyright notice on their manuscripts when submitting them; today (those that still deal in hardcopy), it’s viewed as “amateur.” I suppose it might make sense for a painting that’s expected to see a lot of reproductions, saves the possibility that the image will get separated from its copyright data.

  1. Art has been a hobby of mine for quite some time and I’ve only recently tried turning it into a career. When I first started producing art I would always date my pieces — until a professional artist/instructor suggested I NOT include a date on the front of the piece. His reasons were exactly the same ones you talked about in your video. Well, I took it to heart and have not dated my artwork ever since.

    1. I have another question. If we sell prints of our work ( such as from Fine Art America), how do we handle that with purchaser of originals. Do we tell them or adjust price accordingly? Thank you, Susan

  2. I do put a date on my artwork. On the back of my work are my name, title of artwork, media and date. Also an inventory number.
    I ask that a date not appear on anything else. By doing this, and I haven’t had any customer, on having it wrapped up, say “oh…I don’t want it because it isn’t current . ” If a person is genuinely in love with a piece, they don’t care.
    Usually if a patron was interested in a piece of art, and were interested in my speculation on a potential increase in value, I told them that when I buy art, personally, I have to love it. If it increases in value, then it’s a bonus.

  3. As a rule I don’t date my paintings as I don’t see the benefit of doing so, however the exception is a series of paintings I have been commissioned to paint for the collection of a renowned Sydney Museum. They have asked me to put the date on the back of the canvases and of course I have done so.

    1. Hi Camille,

      When you put a date on the back of the canvas, are you putting it on the canvas or on the stretcher bar? And if on the canvas, what’s the best way to do this? What medium do you use?

      Thank you,

      1. I usually put the year on the front and a more complete date on the back. I’ll sign on the stretcher bar if it’s naked, but more and more canvas manufacturers are using full-wrap canvases, so you can just sign on the part that’s over the stretcher. The back of the image area is perfectly valid, too (assuming you haven’t recycled the canvas and have a less-interesting image there), but you’d have to make sure whatever you’re signing with won’t cause problems for the front in the future).

  4. My paintings are my diary and I would make an observation and comment by painting every day I am able. Obviously many disagree, but I always date my work as I wholeheartedly approve of ”seizing the date” without fear or reproach. It is indeed fear that leads us not to date that our works, and I refuse to buy into this perpetration of belief that if it is not sold it’s no good.
    What good in the scheme of a life is a diary without a date. When you hopefully get to be an old forgetful lady its always a delight to see the date and have it sit easily into the diary of your life. Fear not.

  5. There are merits for all the above comments. However, if you are an artist entering national or international shows, there are usually time requirements which prevents some individuals from resubmitting work over, riding on previous success, rather than producing new, current artwork.

    1. Heck, my stuff can’t go to my county fair without a dated signature–and if the judge can’t easily find it (like if you’re one of those who like to work it into the details of the painting), you’re out. “Proof of newness” is, in my experience, WAY more common than “acceptance of undated.”

  6. This question has been debated with multiple artist friends. Given the past few years, I have been out of actively connecting and trying to sell my work. I am now starting up again and upon submitting recent paintings, found the request for 2 yr or less art. My paintings have had limited viewing. Unfortunately, I did date some of what I considered my best work and had dated them. I will be painting out these dates and removing years from my website.

    I also noted, jurors are asking for Social Media accounts. If you post recent works, the posts dates the work for you.

    Thank you for the information!

    1. Not at all irrelevant, and not entirely a choice. In my experience, “must be signed and dated (on front)” SIGNIFICANTLY outweighs venues that allow undated works.

  7. I never date any of my pieces as it might be misconstrued as incestious.

    For shame, those who record such dates.

    Sorry folks. I couldn’t help myself.


  8. I have always dated my work. I sort of learned this from my studies at art school. It chronicles my progression and changes as an artist over time. Over the years I have entered quite a few juried shows and been accepted to exhibit in them by some prestigious curators and jurors. I have always adhered honestly to only submitting work created within the past three years, which seems to be an almost universal requirement for juried shows and grant applications. Sometimes this even resulted in my not being able to submit older, larger and flashier pieces for a show. Imagine my frustration when I attended openings for prestigious shows that accepted me and spoke with other accepted artists only to find out that they never date their work and the accepted work was much older than those requirements. Kind of dishonest, if you ask me!

    1. I agree with Grace Paleg, our art is our diary. And if someone is in love with your work, it should be irrelevant. I date mine but on the back.
      But I do have a question unrelated. What is your opinion on discounts? And I’m strictly referring to a person buying multiple pieces, whether in a gallery or in my case when I’m set up at a festival or fair, I’ve been approached by people wanting more then one piece. Now I will admit, at the time, it took me by surprise and honestly I was slightly annoyed. I went ahead and discounted and sold several to one person. It bothered me that it bothered me(I guess because I donate sometimes up to 50% to horse rescues) and I gradually got over it because I said to myself, I sold more pieces then had I not discounted.
      Anyways thoughts on that, do or don’t. And if you do, is there a rule of thumb?

      1. Amy:
        I solved the discount problem. I calculate my costs in materials, double or triple that for my time & talent & then I add 15% onto that. The 15% is my bartering margin. Some people will not buy unless they get some sort of discount first. When I run into that type of buyer & they ask for a discount or better offer, I tell them I have a low margin of profit, bit want them to have the piece, so I offer them 10% off. Most of the time that is sufficient and the customer is happy with a little discount and I am happy with the sale. On the odd occasion you get someone who just wants to “ low ball” you & wants a deep discount. More than the first 10% offer. I then act very reluctant, tell them if I lower it more it starting to eat into my profits. Then I give the the ultimatum offer, I will give them an additional 5% off, but they have to purchase it now. Be firm on them buying it now. Do not relent. Tell them a total of 15%, then you immediately get out your calculator & subtract 15% off your retail price, then show it to them, say that a total savings of $——. So they can see the amount. They will either agree & you made the sale or they will try to bargain with you more, if they try to keep bargaining, let them walk, at that point they are just trying to screw you out of money.
        So, adding the extra 15% guarantees you will always get the paid what you wanted, if they don’t haggle you make an additional 15%! If they haggle & are happy with the first discounted offer of 10%, you still make an additional 5%! Don’t feel guilty about adding the extra 15% for It all works out over time. The occasional extra 15% makes up for inflation, extra unexpected costs our of your pocket, accidental damages, expensive packing & mailing increases etc. just automatically add it into your prices, make sure all pricing on your website Includes it consistently. It makes facing those issues easier cause you have a built in buffer.

  9. When I’m looking at an artist’s work on their website I specifically want to see their work grouped by year because I want to see what kind of progress or change in style has happened over the years. All my work is dated on the back but not you wouldn’t know the date if seen online. I have to know when I did something from years ago.

  10. This has been on my mind recently, where I’ve had (and tend to have) larger gaps in my production of work. I can see now that placing the date on (at least) the front of the work may be counter-productive. Tho, in my case, all of my works are registered with the US Copyright Office and do have that (C) signature on the front.

    I will consider manually revising this from the originals, at least just removing the (C) YEAR from it. I may consider leaving the (C) as a polite advisement.

    Yet, I also appreciate what Blaine says above, in that you’d want to naturally see an artist’s progression in talent and style over time. In my case, I don’t have many works completed just yet. Conundrum!

  11. My inventory system reflects the date. As with works done in 2023, the inventory number would read Inv. # 2302-01 … second work or series and the first work in that series or medium. I put the inventory number on the back of each work and, of course, keep an inventory list not only in my computer files but also in a binder in my studio.
    So in essence I am dating the work via the inventory number but not overtly. I’m sure the system is straight forward enough for a dealer or curator to comprehend.

  12. Jason is 100% correct on this one. As a gallery owner myself, I will at times have a client come into the gallery who falls in love with a work, however will pass on it because it is an older work. The public typically views anything by an artist which is more recent, as being superior to prior works. They also seem to think that if an artwork is older than one year, that there must be something bad about it which they are just not seeing. It is my experience that unless it is an “investment level” artist’s work…the older the date of the painting, the more challenging it is to sell it. I always suggest to my artists that they catalog their works with a code on the back which they understand, and to keep a log of their work. That code can use both letters and symbols, such as an abbreviation for where it was created, the medium, and the date. For example: something like NY2303-o2. That can represent the following information…It was created in New York, in 2023, in the month of March, is an oil, and was the second piece off the easel that month. Once you establish your inventory coding system, you should stick to it.

    Unlike a lot of galleries, I always provide my artists with the buyers information so that if down the road, they wish procure a particular work of theirs for a retrospective, etc, they are able to do so. I also provide this with the understanding that they will not go behind my back simply to deal direct with the client. My artists have all been very appreciative and respectful of that. If they ever break that agreement, then my relationship is over with them. One of my artists dates his work by quietly hiding it underneath the canvas on the stretcher bar. I am not sure how I feel about this, however I would rather it be dated in any other manner than, directly on the face of the artwork.

  13. I’ve been putting dates on my work for years. At this point, I see it as evidence that I have had longevity as an artist, as well as the “periods” of how my work changed. Now, I’m recovering from PCS (post concussion syndrome) and am just beginning to create again. I also need to update my website 🙂 So hearing this viewpoint is interesting and something to consider. All the best to you, and thank you.

  14. Spot on! I followed bad, but well intended advice early on, but eventually figured out that the best paintings sometimes take a while to find a home, you don’t have to tell the whole world that it was the case.
    Thanks as always for sound advice Jason!

  15. In today’s consumer culture it might be considered in bad taste to buy last year’s art the same as wearing last year’s fashion. However, I think the art collectors 200 years from now are going to be delighted to have something with a genuine historical date on it.
    I’ve been putting a small set of initials on the front and in the back on a stretcher bar I write the measurements, medium and the year the painting was completed along with a serial number. I figure the fashion “snobs” won’t bother looking at the back and the super curious collectors will be interested in knowing historical information on their collections

  16. I have painted and sold artwork for over 30 years and no one has ever asked when it was painted. At one point I did date the back of the canvas. Some works I kept as what I felt were “Break Through” pieces so they were in my home for 10 or more years. Then when I wanted to place them there was hesitance from the gallery. I explained that they were in my personal collection so maybe they had more meaning. But, some were less popular or in galleries that did not sell much work. I have had artwork in one gallery that had a piece for three years and returned to me unsold. I placed it with another gallery and it sold in a month…… SO… I do not date artwork anymore and if it is a piece worthy of a signature I ship it to a gallery with a dated consignment sheet so there is a general idea of the age. I doubt that a museum director will ever call to ask the age…….

  17. When I’ve completed an acrylic painting on a stretched canvas, I’ll wait a few days, and glue a craft paper overlay onto the stretcher bars, and then trim it. Onto that, I put a sticker with the title of the , my name, another rendering of my signature (which I always paint on the front of my paintings), and the date.

    So far, I’ve never had ay issues.

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