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  • Writer's pictureRenata Dyk

The Art of Value: Exploring Why Paintings Are So Expensive?

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Painting, a timeless art form, finds its roots in prehistoric eras, remaining one of humanity's oldest creative endeavors. Across cultures and throughout history, artists have wielded brushes, transforming canvases with images ranging from lifelike portraits to abstract expressions of their innermost thoughts. Behind these beautiful works lies a process that requires meticulous planning, material preparation, and an intricate dance of colors to bring a vision to life. The journey of creating a painting is nothing short of a laborious craft. So, why do paintings are expensive?

From Canvas to Collector's Dream: the beauty of art lies in the understanding of paintings, the art of value they possess, and why they can be so expensive.

In essence, the elevated prices of paintings are a testament to the sheer talent, time, and hard work invested by artists. Just as in any other industry, artists need to be compensated for their creativity and dedication. However, in the art world, prices can often skyrocket into millions, driven not only by supply and demand but also by the undeniable element of quality.

Should a painting's cost be determined by the materials used?

The value of a painting is not contingent on the price of materials employed in its creation. When considering the worth of a painting, factors beyond mere materials should be weighed. Questions such as "How much did I pay for this piece? What materials did the artist use – oil or acrylic? Is the artist a renowned master or an emerging talent?" must be factored in.

The artist's perspective on price and value

It is crucial to grasp that an artist does not perceive their creation in the same way as an observer might. The artist's vision is inherently subjective, as it emerges from within the artwork. Their work becomes a mirror reflecting the reality in which we live, albeit from their unique viewpoint. This individuality grants their creation its intrinsic value.

The artist's world and reality

While the artist inhabits a different realm from our own, their artwork is a tangible representation of our shared reality, infused with their own interpretative prowess. Their distinctive worldview shapes the very essence of their work, enhancing its uniqueness and worth.

In practical terms, aspiring to own an authentic Da Vinci or Picasso painting for a mere $100 million is futile; these artistic legends are no longer among us, and their masterpieces are beyond acquisition. Yet, what if you desire a finely crafted replica of their creations, meticulously painted by a contemporary artist emulating the styles of these great masters? That's an entirely different narrative.

Creating the illusion of reality

Artists conjure new and unseen worlds through their imagination, meticulously abiding by principles that ensure their creations convincingly mirror our reality. These craftsmen employ techniques and tools to bring their visions to life. They acquire this artistry through formal training, be it in art schools or colleges, honing their skills until they become adept artisans. The iconic works of Picasso or Monet are testaments to their unique talents, which translate not only into what they paint but also into what we, the viewers, perceive and experience.

The Mastery of Technique and Style

One of the primary reasons behind the high cost of paintings lies in the mastery of technique and style that artists develop over years of dedicated practice. Every brushstroke, every color choice, every composition, and every stroke of the palette knife is a result of countless hours spent honing their craft. This mastery is not something that happens overnight; it is a gradual and relentless pursuit of perfection.

Consider the works of the great masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, or Vincent van Gogh. Their paintings are revered not just because of the subjects they chose but because of the way they executed their visions. Take Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," for instance. The technique of sfumato, where colors and tones blend seamlessly into one another, is a testament to his extraordinary skill. The layers of translucent glazes applied to achieve that perfect, enigmatic smile required immense patience and dexterity.

Similarly, the way Rembrandt employed chiaroscuro to create dramatic lighting and shadow in his portraits set him apart as a true master. These techniques and styles are not easily replicable. They are the result of years of painstaking practice, experimentation, and innovation.

The Uniqueness of Original Artworks

Originality in art is something that cannot be overlooked. When you acquire an original painting, you are not just buying an image; you are obtaining a piece of the artist's soul, their unique perspective on the world. It's an intimate connection between the creator and the observer. This exclusivity comes at a price.

In the art world, originality is often equated with rarity. An artist may spend weeks, months, or even years on a single piece. Once it's completed, that piece is one of a kind. There will never be another exactly like it. The rarity of original artworks significantly impacts their value. Collectors and art enthusiasts are willing to pay a premium for something that can't be replicated.

Consider the works of Jackson Pollock, known for his revolutionary drip painting technique. Each of his paintings is a unique expression of his energy, emotions, and creativity. The chaotic yet controlled nature of his works cannot be reproduced in the same way. Thus, owning an original Pollock becomes a prestigious and valuable possession.

The Emotional Connection

Art is not just about aesthetics; it's about emotions. The ability of a painting to evoke feelings, memories, and thoughts in the viewer is priceless. A great artwork can transport you to another time, another place, or even another state of mind.

Artists infuse their emotions and experiences into their work. This emotional connection between the artist and the observer is what makes art so powerful. When you look at a painting that resonates with you, you're essentially connecting with the artist's inner world. This is an experience that cannot be replicated by a poster or a print.

Imagine standing in front of Edvard Munch's "The Scream". The swirling sky, the haunting figure, and the vibrant colors all convey a sense of anxiety and existential dread. This emotional intensity is what has made "The Scream" an iconic masterpiece. People from all over the world flock to see it in person, just to experience the profound emotions it elicits.

The Investment Value

Art has proven to be a solid investment over the years. For many collectors, art is not just about aesthetic appreciation; it's also a financial asset. Art prices have shown a tendency to appreciate over time, especially for works by well-established artists. As a result, buying a painting can be seen as a long-term investment.

The demand for quality artwork often surpasses the supply. This dynamic drives up the prices of renowned artists' works, making them even more attractive to investors. Art auctions frequently witness fierce bidding wars, with collectors and investors vying to own a piece of art history.

Consider the case of "Salvator Mundi", a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. This artwork, once thought to be lost, resurfaced and was sold for a staggering $450.3 million in 2017. The investment value of such pieces is astronomical. While not all artworks appreciate to this extent, many art collectors have enjoyed significant returns on their investments.

The Influence of Art Movements and Trends

Art is not static; it evolves with time. Different art movements and trends shape the art world. What is considered valuable and collectible today might not have been the case a few decades ago. These shifts in taste and preference have a direct impact on the pricing of paintings.


The price of a painting is not solely dictated by the cost of the materials employed. It stands as a testament to the artist's imagination, emotion, and the adherence to principles that allow their vision to take life. Each artwork is a mirror reflecting the artist's unique world perspective and, by extension, the shared reality we all experience.


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