Your Guide to Buying an Antique Watercolour Painting

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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Watercolour Painting

Whether the buyer is starting out at buying antique watercolours or the buyer is now intent on using the internet to track down inspirational paintings, there is often difficulty on how to actually buy them online.

With the help of this handy guide, finding an antique watercolour painting need not be a hassle on eBay; the marketplace that offers the widest variety of paintings on the Internet.

Understanding Antique Watercolour Paintings

A watercolour painting to be defined as an antique should be older than 100 years. This means the painting should predate 1900 or Queen Victoria’s Reign. The following table gives a rough guide of definitions of vintage and none vintage terms for paintings:-



Antique Art

Paintings dating pre 1900.  Over 100 years old

Vintage Art

Paintings dated after 1900. 90-50 years old

New Art

Paintings dated after 1950. Less than 50 years old.

Watercolour painting became more popular during the early 1800’s and was used for a variety of purposes. The subject of watercolours varies greatly during the 1800’s, from miniature portraits to landscape settings. The range of watercolour paintings on eBay is vast, and unexpected paintings will be guaranteed to be found with a few simple search tips.

Antique watercolours can be painted on thick paper with a textured surface, or on a variety of other mediums like canvas or papyrus. Watercolour paints are unusual in the sense that water is the medium to convey the paint onto the paper. It is a difficult medium to paint, and detailed paintings of landscapes are sought after. Taste is varied and that is what makes looking for a water colour painting exciting on eBay.

Advantages to Buying an Antique Watercolour on eBay

There are many specialist sellers who will only stock the finest antique watercolours to be found, and this means that it is easy for the buyer when searching.

  • There is no need to spend hours going around an auction room looking for a painting, with eBay the buyer can browse in the comfort of their own home.
  • The buyer can research the painting easily on the internet with the use of popular search engines.
  • The buying options on eBay means that the buyer can pick up a fantastic deal which might be difficult with buying one at an auction room.
  • Many sellers will have a lot of feedback and expertise on their paintings.
  • A buyer can look for the subject of the painting such a figures and landscapes.

What to Consider When Looking for an Antique Watercolour on eBay

There are some aspects to consider when buying antique watercolour paintings on eBay.

  • The seller should have a history of selling paintings from a variety of eras.
  • The condition of the painting will vary greatly depending how well it has been stored or if it has been exposed to sunlight or chemicals. If there is some damage on the painting then the seller should document it clearly with pictures and in the description.
  • Consider searching for a particular artist to find some specific listings, especially if the buyer is after a collector’s item.
  • The painting should ideally have a signature on it, and this will help with the research of the artist. Paintings before 1800 aren’t always signed, so when looking at the painting ask the seller for some proof of the history of the painting. This can be proven with some receipts or auction house records. Anything such as gallery labels etc. on the painting may add value in the future.
  • It can be easy at a glance to judge the age of the painting by the back of the frame. If the listing does not show the back of the painting then consider asking the seller to provide pictures.
  • Research the name of the artist, for a watercolour to be an investment or item of significant value, the painter ideally needs to have studied at a recognised artistic institution or have strong ties to a famous artist of that period.

How to Buy an Antique Watercolour Painting on eBay

To begin looking for antique watercolour paintings on eBay, the buyer should start with the eBay home portal Since buying art is a very subjective matter, more specific search terms should be used by the buyer. eBay’s Art portal is the way to view many fantastic antique watercolours from different eras. From the Art portal, select ‘Paintings and from there the buyer can select ‘Modern’ or ‘Antique’ paintings to narrow down the search.

A general overview of listings can be found using the search term ‘Antique Watercolour Painting’. From there the buyer can choose to browse the range of listings, or if they are after a particular type such as a miniature portrait they could search for ‘Antique Miniature Watercolour Painting’. These will tend to date to the earlier to mid late Victorian period as this period was most popular for miniature portraits. Such portraits are unlikely to be of any notable or famous persons, or if it is this this will be stated in the listing’s description.

The listings can be narrowed down with different subtypes such as medium. The buyer can select the ‘watercolour’ option to find a wide range of watercolour paintings predating the 1900’s. The subject of the painting can be selected as well, from the following range:

The main painting styles of the 19th century varied greatly over time, but eBay does allow the buyer to search for the style of painting, such as Realism or Impressionist. These listings will vary in detail and subject but can be based on landscape scenes or particular locations. If the buyer is unsure of which art style they prefer, and instead wish to look more at the era the painting was painted in, then the following searches are available:

  • Victorian Watercolour
  • Miniature watercolour

Sellers who are vague or ambiguous about answering questions about the listing should be avoided. The buyer should only purchase the painting unless they are very sure of the painting being genuine. It is highly common for the seller to take a picture of the back of the frame; it can be quite easy to tell the age of a painting due to the condition of the frame. Older pictures may have extra labels and notes stuck to the back of the frame which can help date and prove who may have owned it in the past.

An aspect to consider when looking at the listing is that the seller should take many pictures of the painting in good sunlight. They should document any imperfections such as tears or staining. Ideally there should be one picture of the painting without glass on top of it.

The advantages of buying on eBay means that after bidding and paying for the painting, the buyer will have their painting dispatched in a number of days. The postage for the painting will depend on its size and weight, and also if it is being delivered by courier. Ideally insurance should be provided during the transit period to offer the maximum protection possible for the buyer. eBay will accept several different methods of payment, but PayPal is the most secure.

Taking Care of the Watercolour Painting

If any restoration work needs to be done on the painting then it is highly recommended the work should be done by a qualified and experienced restorer. Some listings will be ready to hang on the wall when they have arrived, but do always inspect the painting before placing it on the wall.

  • Avoid hanging over a heat source such as a fire or radiator as this can distort the paper and frame.
  • Don’t hang the picture in direct sunlight as the watercolour will fade more quickly over time compared to being stored in a darker location.
  • Never clean a guilt frame with a damp cloth as this may remove the colour.
  • Don’t feel tempted to remove anything from the back of the painting.
  • Use two hooks for hanging the picture as this will provide more support. Check the condition of the wood on the frame before drilling  as the frame may not support the hooks due to the its age or condition.
  • If wishing to re-frame the painting, consider getting protected UV glass installed. This may seem costly, but the glass with prevent up to 95% of UV rays touching the painting, which in turn will protect the painting from fading.


A watercolour, whether it is a simple country scene or a more elaborate portrait, can add to a buyer’s home or collection. A named artist will increase the value of a painting greatly, but also unnamed work will have equal emotional value to the buyer.

Art is a subjective matter, and it can appear difficult to make the purchases on eBay at first, but with this handy guide, buying an antique watercolour painting is easy and pleasurable. The buyer can enjoy their piece of art for many years to come thanks to eBay.

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