How to Buy an Antique Painting on eBay

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How to Buy an Antique Painting on eBay

Painting has long been a popular and widely available medium of art. Many different materials have been used, with canvas being the most commonly available type of antique painting. Canvas is made out of fabric such as cotton or linen, and forms the base of many of the available paintings from the antique period, as well as being a popular choice for more recent works.

Antique paintings can be more difficult to obtain, as well as more expensive, than those from more recent times. A wide range of antique paintings can be found on eBay to suit all styles and tastes.

What are Antique Paintings

Paintings are commonly divided into a number of different periods, depending on when they were produced.

  • Antique paintings are widely considered to be those painted before the beginning of the Twentieth Century. There are a numerous different artistic styles that can be found in this era, including some of the earliest examples of the more abstract styles. Realism, however, is the most widely available style from this time. Antique paintings, due to their age, are sometimes more expensive and harder to obtain than more recent works. However, like works from any period, the price can be impacted greatly by the popularity of the artist.
  • Modern paintings are considered to be those created throughout much of the Twentieth Century, though there is often debate about specific dates and some of the older paintings in this period may be considered antique by some. Abstract art styles rose to prominence during this period.
  • Paintings made later than the modern period are considered to be contemporary paintings, and this era stretches up to the modern day.

Antique Painting Materials

There are a variety of different painting materials. Different paints have different properties, and a different finish, and many artists had a preferred type of paint that they used for much of their work. Similarly, collectors also often have preferred types which can give focus to their collection.

Oil Paint

Oil painting is one of the oldest types of painting, with its use dating back to the fifth century. The popularity of oil painting has endured throughout the history of the art of painting, and has been used by numerous artists and in different styles. Oil paints are made with the pigment suspended in a ‘drying oil’. Oils used can include poppy oil, walnut oil and linseed oil, and different oils can give paintings different characteristics and different finishes. Some oils, for example, provide protection against the paint yellowing from age.


Watercolours are another old kind of paint, and this type of paint has a long history of use in China and Africa, before becoming popular in Europe. Watercolours suspend the pigment of the paint in a soluble vehicle, unlike oil paints which use oil. Many different materials have been used with watercolours, with the most traditional materials including paper, papyrus, leather, wood and canvas. Most watercolours are transparent, and can offer very bold and vibrant colours. Thicker types of watercolour, such as gouache, are also available and offer different properties.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints did not come into wide use until much later than watercolours or oil paints, and it is very unusual for an acrylic painting to be considered antique. Acrylic can be used to create an appearance similar to watercolour or oil paints, and can be diluted with water of gels to create a unique appearance.

Paint Surface Materials

As well as the type of paint used in a painting, the surface that a painter has applied the paint to is a key part of a painting, and can have a significant impact on the appearance and properties of a work. There are a number of main kinds of surface material commonly found in antique paintings.

  • Perhaps the most commonly used and widely available kind of surface material is canvas, which has been a popular choice for artists in the antique period, and throughout more recent times. Canvas was commonly made out of materials such as linen and cotton, and stretched over a wooden frame. The material is a popular choice for those working with oil paints or watercolours, due to the absorbent nature of the material.
  • Boards of wood and other rigid, solid materials have also been used for a variety of different works, though less commonly than canvas. These are often used due to the way a type of paint will behave on a solid surface.
  • Paper has also been used for paintings, with heavier paper preferred as it can withstand the wet paint. More modern watercolours often use specifically made watercolour paper, while leather and glass are among the less commonly used materials.

Artistic Style

Different artistic styles have emerged during the history of painting, with some becoming popular and widely available amongst paintings from the antique period.


Realist paintings were perhaps among the most popular artistic style during the antique period. Here, painters strove to represent reality as accurately as possible in their work, in shape, form and colour. Particularly popular in this style were portraits and landscape pieces.


Impressionist paintings were also popular during the later period of the antique era. A key tenet of impressionism was the idea that the human eye sees light, rather than the objects themselves. Impressionist paintings often use sweeps of colour, with a focus on the accurate depiction of light. Impressionist paintings often feature thin but visible brush strokes. Impressionist works often have a hazy quality.


Abstract paintings did not become popular until later in the period, eventually rising to prominence in the modern era and remaining popular into contemporary times. Abstract painters do not take visual references from the real world, and their work can appear as a chaotic, anarchic combination of form, colour, and line. An example of abstract work would be expressionism, where artists attempt to interpret the world in a purely subjective way.

Antique Painting Subject

Many different subject matters have been used in painting, and many artists will have a particular type which will recur throughout their work. Similarly many collectors will focus on a particular subject matter.

  • Paintings of people, and portraits, were particularly prominent in the antique period, when photographic technology had not been developed and portraits provided a way of preserving an individual’s image. Many artists of the time also painted self-portraits.
  • Animals have long been a popular subject for art. Domestic animals, wildlife and birds have all been the subject of many paintings, with antique animal paintings often being of a more realist nature.
  • Still life has maintained a longstanding popularity throughout history, and some of the oldest oil paintings are still life works. These paintings focus on inanimate objects such as food and flowers. Some of the earliest abstract pieces experimented with this subject matter.
  • Landscapes have long be a widely popular subject for painting. Antique landscape works will often feature realist depictions of rural and village scenes, though urban and nautical landscapes were also popular.

Figure paintings and nudes are also widely available, and these pieces place an emphasis on the human form.

How to Buy an Antique Painting on eBay

  • eBay offers a wide variety of paintings, featuring a range of different materials, styles and subject matters. The full listing of available paintings can be found in the Collectables & Antiques section. Antique Paintings can be found in the Paintings category, under Art. Items can be arranged by categories including price, condition, and distance to seller, as well as by style and subject matter. It is also possible to choose between Auction and Buy it Now buying options, providing flexibility in how an antique painting can be purchased.
  • Key information about a painting, such as the size or subject matter, will often be prominently displayed in the item listing. This makes it easy to quickly establish whether an item meets any specific requirements. Further information about an item can be accessed on the item page, where information about the seller such as feedback ratings and item reviews is also available. This helps to ensure that a purchase can be made with confidence. . It is also possible here to ask the seller a question regarding the item.
  • If a specific antique painting is needed, it may be easier and more effective to make use of the search function available at the top of every page. A search can be made to return results from the entire site, or from within a specific category. Further information on effective use of the search function can be found on the Search Tips page.


A wide range of paintings are available, from a wide range of different time periods and featuring a variety of different materials, such as oil paintings on canvas, or watercolour paintings on wood. Realist, abstract and other artistic styles can also be easily found.

All the different types of antique paintings explained above can be found on eBay at extremely affordable prices.

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