Modern Portrait Painting Buying Guide

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Modern Portrait Painting Buying Guide

Buying modern art can be a form of investment, one that is visually pleasing to the owner and hopefully of great value in the future. Buying a modern portrait painting is no easy task when the art world is always changing, but with tips from this guide, finding the perfect modern portrait painting will be enjoyable thanks to eBay.

Modern Art and Modern Portraits

  • With art materials constantly improving, artists are able to paint with a wide range of mediums and colours, from rich oil paints to gentle watercolour paints. The most popular medium for modern portrait is oil on canvas. The style of painting used by the artist will vary, from finely detailed work to more contemporary styles of painting.
  • Modern art started in the late 19th century with famous artists such as Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh pushing the limits of traditional art. Rather than a focus on art representing everything as accurately as possible, modern art aimed to interpret the subject in an abstract manner. Modern portraits started to change as a consequence, the colours became brighter and more unusual shapes were applied to the models face and body in some cases.  Some famous artist such as Freud painted with bold styles and brought much debate about the changing style of modern art in the 20th century.
  • Finding art on eBay is a matter of personal taste, but with some basic search tips, anyone can find their dream artwork. Many modern artists are now using eBay as the virtual gallery to sell their artwork, and as a result the buyer can often pick up original work for less than in a gallery.

What to Consider Before Buying Modern Portraits

To ensure that the buyer selects the painting that is right for them, the buyer needs to consider a few aspects. The following table suggests what the buyer should consider before buying a modern portrait painting on eBay:

What to Consider



It is always recommended when buying artwork that the buyer buys the best they can afford, rather than aiming to buy several smaller, cheaper paintings, they should aim for quality of artwork.


The buyer should look at modern portrait subjects that interest them the most. A buyer will be quickly become dissatisfied with a painting they not are really interested in.

Space for the Painting

Ensure that the painting will have space to be hung if the buyer is interested in displaying the piece. It would be a great disappointment to find that the painting won’t fit on the wall.

Ensure it is oil on canvas

Some artists will offer their paintings rather cheaply, but sometimes these are canvas prints ‘finished’ with oil paints to give the appearance of an oil painting

The artist/painter’s reputation

The buyer should research the work of the artist they like, it is often that only a few living artist’s work is of high value.

Consider buying smaller artworks

Smaller artworks can have more value than larger works by the same artist. It is often that collectors will want to fill their space will more smaller pieces than a few larger paintings.

Modern Art Listings

There are many modern portraits to be found on eBay, and in order to ensure the buyer is finding the best listings, these are some of the following details that should be included in the listing’s description.

  • Many detailed pictures: the seller should provide many detailed pictures of different parts of the painting. There should be pictures of the painting hung up to give the buyer an idea of how big the painting will look on a wall.
  • Signature of the artist where applicable. Modern paintings should be signed by the artist in order to increases its value and help identify it as the artist’s own work.
  • If the artist of the painting is deceased then the seller should provide documentation to prove its origin.
  • Consider using popular search engines to research the artist’s work and view similar.
  • Has the artist had any formal training? Not every artist will have had formal training but this is often an assurance that the painting will be of good quality work. This is not always the matter as many famous artists are self taught, but a sign of formal training will add value to a painting.

How to Buy a Modern Portrait Painting On eBay

  • eBay has over 50 different categories on Art alone so it is vital to narrow down the search to help the buyer find the perfect modern portrait painting. To begin the search, go to eBay’s home portal From there the buyer has the option to search using categories, or to use keyword search.
  • To use the keyword search, the buyer could start by typing in ‘Modern Portrait Painting’ to being up a variety of painting in different mediums and subjects. The buyer can also choose to add in extra words such as ‘oil’ or ‘nude’ to further expand the search. By adding the subject of the painting the buyer can narrow down the search further.
  • The buyer can also search for style of art such as ‘Abstract Modern Portrait’ or ‘Realism Modern Portrait’. Some artwork will be by established painters or by new, unknown artists with this type of searches.
  • The second way to search for modern portrait paintings on eBay is to use the categories. This is often a useful method to browse specific areas such as the medium or the subject. The buyer should begin on the homepage and select the ‘Art’ portal and click on search. From there the buyer can select ‘Contemporary Paintings’ and then the ‘People & Portraits’ subcategory. An important aspect to consider next in the search is whether the painting has been listed by a self-representing artist. Some artists deal their work directly to the buyers on eBay so therefore cut the cost of an agent and gallery fees.
  • If the buyer is interested in finding new artists, then they should select ‘yes ‘on the ‘self-representing artist’ category. Selecting 'non-specified' on that category will bring up an interesting range of modern portrait paintings by unknown painters. The buyer can further change the categories to their desired medium such as oil or watercolour. The price range can be entered which is ideal to bring in a range of listings that the buyer can afford.
  • The two main ways of making a purchase on eBay are the ‘Auction’ and ‘Buy it Now’ options.  The auction option is advantageous as it allows the buyer to put in a price they wish to pay for the item, although because it is an auction system the buyer can be outbid on the item.
  • In general it is best to set a personal limit and not to exceed that limit as when a bid is made on eBay, the buyer is entering into a legal contract to ensure payment for the item if they win. ‘Buy it now’ options are perfect for buyers who wish only pay the price stated, and this will guarantee them the item. Listings with buy it now will may also offer good postage options.
  • Postage will vary for the paintings, but as paintings will be valuable many of the sellers will offer some type of insurance for the period the item is being transported. If unsure of the insurance policy with the portrait painting, the buyer should contact the seller about getting insurance for the painting.

The buyer must consider the following before purchasing anything from the seller:

  • Is the feedback good and are there many transactions? Are there any complaints from other customers? If at all unsure then don’t proceed to bid on the item.
  • Look at the seller’s description, and if it’s a store on eBay, see how long they have been trading for. Professional sellers will have been trading for a few years and be knowledgeable about their subject.
  • Does the seller accept returns, or money back guarantees? A good seller will offer some sort of compensation if the buyer is unhappy with their painting.

Storing and Looking after Modern Paintings

Any collector will know that in order to ensure the longevity of the artwork, they must take precious care of the painting. Follow these simple tips to help protect the painting for as long as possible.

  • Keep painting away from direct sunlight as this will prevent fading. If painting is in a room with a lot of light, then keep curtains drawn when not viewing the painting if possible.
  • Do not hang paintings directly above heat sources such as fires or radiators.
  • Always have a professional clean or restore paintings. As well intentioned as a buyer may be in cleaning a painting, they do more damage than good.
  • If the painting is currently of great value then getting insurance for the painting would be a highly recommended.


Art is a wonderful medium of expression which a buyer should enjoy for many years to come. The range of artistic styles and subjects is ever increasing on eBay, and finding the perfect modern portrait painting may seem a difficult task, but with the above guide the matter is made simple.

Whether the buyer is looking to buy a modern nude oil painting, or a finely detailed watercolour of a beautiful woman, the buyer can rest assured that their painting has been bought with total confidence with eBay.

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