Is not quite as simple as you might think! A search in the "Art" category for the word "oil" in either the title or description gets almost 7,000 hits. We need to be a little smarter!
Firstly, in what ebay categories might contemporary, fine art oil paintings be found? The seller could reasonably place such a painting in any of the following categories:
* Art:Paintings:Modern (1900-1979)
* Art:Contemporary Paintings:Other Contemporary Paintings
* Art:Contemporary Paintings:Traditional
* Art:Artists (Self-Representing):Paintings:Oil
(Note that these are ebay.co.uk categories, unhelpfully, categories on ebay.com are completely different, see the ebay guide
Buying Original Art Online which covers some of the US categories.)
Unfortunately, only the last of these categories is specific to oil paintings so we need to search within those categories. Let's try a simple search within each category for the word "oil" in the item title only. This gives us the following item totals (valid for 1st June 2007):
* 2,228 - Art:Paintings:Modern (1900-1979)
* 204 - Art:Contemporary Paintings:Other Contemporary Paintings
* 732 - Art:Contemporary Paintings:Traditional
* 1,252 - Art:Artists (Self-Representing):Paintings:Oil
So, in theory there are over 4,000 oil paintings to choose from. Assuming they are all on 7 day listings, that means we have to look at 571 each day, just to keep up! In reality, there is some overlap - sellers can and do put items in multiple categories.
There are also some steps we can take to reduce this number further, but some hard decisions are required. Firstly, we could look at items in the UK only. Overseas shipping can be very expensive, redress may be more difficult, and many paintings sourced in the far east may only be painted once you have placed your order. A UK only search for oil, reduces the number to about 2,000.
We could also look only at private sellers, as many e-bay stores have hundreds of paintings that are constantly available, and many of them are repeated "popular" subjects that have been commissioned by the gallery just to sell on e-bay. They are fine as decoration but they are very unlikely to increase in value or have an interesting story to tell. Removing these to look at UK based private sellers only shows about 500 paintings available.
Unfortunately, some real world galleries do sometimes put unsold stock on to e-bay and these can be good bargains, so we cannot always dismiss business sellers. One approach is to exclude particular sellers, for example just two e-bay uk stores account for over 1,500 paintings .
Another approach is to search for the name of the artists you are interested in. This is unlikely to find many hits (except prints for very popular artists) as at any given time there are a very few established artists paintings available. Even so, it may be useful to create a saved search with your favourite artist names to run every week or so.
In short, there is no easy way to identify good, fine art original oils, but some of the following ideas might help:
* Search for "oil" in the listing titles of each of the categories above as often as you can; order the list by "time-ending soonest" and work through as far as you can.
* Modify your search to exclude the e-bay stores that do not stock the kind of art you are looking for.
* Run a weekly search for your favourite artist names anywhere in "art".
* Search for "oil" amongst private sellers as often as you can; order the list by "time-newly listed" and see if any potential bargains have arrived, especially if they are "buy it now" or "best offer".
* Watch the e-bay announcements to see if there are any changes to the category listings
* Put anything that interests you in your watch list
* Enjoy the art you buy!