Should an artist sign her/his painting?

I was watching a televised art competition, “Portrait Artist of the Year”, and one of the judges said that he told his students they should not sign their paintings because it was distracting/ugly. Are unsigned paintings the norm now? Comments pro and con would be appreciated.

Maybe he said that because many poorly executed signatures look like last-minute thoughts, detract from the art, and are ugly. But that is not a good reason to forego an identifying signature altogether. A consistent, unobtrusive, nicely-designed signature should be an integral part of the artwork. (IMO)


Signed paintings far outnumber unsigned. I would ignore the TV expert. It think he’s wrong. If you really have an issue with it being somehow distracting then sign the back. If you are lucky your work will become of value someday but not if it’s unsigned. Provenance is very important. A signature is part of that and leaves much to speculation. An unsigned Picasso isn’t worth near as much as a signed one.


I agree, the signature needs to be thought out. I’ve reviewed some of my earlier works and shake my head–when I first started out, I signed everything in one color (a blue) and always in the right corner…and sometimes, it stuck out. It was one of the first things I notice now…not always in a good way. I think signatures should be on there but in a place where they are noticeable is you’re looking but not distracting from the painting. These days, most of the time, I do not “paint” my signature on but sign it into the wet paint (I paint in oils) with a pointed rubber tool or a small stylus. This typically “blends” it into the painting.

Interesting information about signatures: Narcissistic artists sell more art, for more money

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I don’t usually sign abstracts on front, only on back because they may not want to hang the same way I do. (crazy, right? Haha.) But remainder of paintings I do sign, it is not only desired by buyers but expected. I don’t particularly have a nice sig so I think it detracts…and I sent a few out early on and buyer wanted to send back to me to sign. :expressionless:

Since I wrote this question, I worked on developing a signature and finally made peace with one of the options. It took about 4 months, though.