If you have purchased a painting from me, you may notice that their are several notations on the back side. These include notes about the painting, dates, signatures, and anything else an artist chooses to put there. They become part of the provenance of the painting, which is the record of the painting’s history. Notations on the back may also include insignia of the manufacturer of the panel or stretched canvas.
Sometimes I write where the painting was created or what inspired me to paint that subject. The backside will usually have the painting’s name and my signature and the month and year that the painting was completed.
Hillside Vineyard, 9×12, back
As I have improved my skill and studied painting over the years, I sometimes go back and add more drama and paint to a piece. There may be two dates when the painting was completed. The first time I thought it was done and the second time I thought it was done. I also frequently record important exhibitions that the painting has been selected for or awards it has won, but I don’t always remember to do this.
Sometimes I re-purpose my canvases. I sand down the old paint and put a new coat of oil primer on the panel. I have to obliterate the previous name and other info, if I have put notations on the back. I would rather reuse these materials than destroy them. If there is a large painted out area on the back of a panel, this may have been the case. Conservators discovered that one of Vincente Van Gogh’s canvases had been painted over 14 times! (My personal best is 2 uses.)
I take almost all of my exhibition quality paintings to a professional photographer, so there will be a notation for the date when that happened. Many of my paintings receive a varnish, so there will be a notation of the year and month. I always use Gamvar, a varnish created by Gamblin Colors in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art. Sometimes paintings sell before varnish can happen, as it is recommended to wait at least 6 months to perform this task, after the last paint application. If there is no note about varnishing on the back of your painting, and you want to protect it for the long haul, you can always take it to a good frame shop and ask them to varnish the piece. It is recommended that varnish be applied during periods of low humidity so late summer and early fall are the annual times of year when I usually varnish paintings.
Big Sur, Big View, 12×16, back
I do keep track of my paintings; both those that have found new homes and those out at galleries. I do this via an art database that my husband Richard designed for this purpose. There will be a “db” notation, on the back of the painting, so that I know the painting has been entered into the data base. It still surprises me when I come across a painting with a name but no db notation. These paintings have usually been set aside for more contemplation and paint application at a later time.
Paintings sold in my Online Gallery on this website include photos of the backs. If you have one of my paintings and there is a notation on the back that you are wondering about, just drop me a picture image and I can let you know what the note means.
I hope this explains all the little notes you find on the back of my paintings. Of course the front side is the most important, and I hope you are still enjoying that view!