There was a recent question (Art identification) that was closed. A user disagreed with the closing, and I thought the reason was interesting and worth a meta question -- they declined to start one, so I decided to.

This is something that wasn't really covered in the previous meta question about identification questions: What guidelines should we set for "identification"-style questions?, which was more about the tool/technique questions we had seen up to that point.

This identification question, however, showed two reproduction oil paintings and the OP was interested in knowing the name of the originals. Is identifying specific artworks topical for A&C?

  • 1
    This is definitely an area that gets a lot of attention. I don't feel experienced enough to take it on but would an ArtHistory stack be worth creating that could encompass these questions? Would it be too disruptive to expand the Arts&Crafts mission?
    – rebusB
    Jan 29, 2019 at 21:39
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    An ArtHistory stack would be an interesting candidate for Area 51, but I don't think it would be a great thing to expand our site to encompass. (The latter half of that sentence is of course just my opinion; maybe ask a new Meta question to get community input, though!)
    – Erica
    Jan 29, 2019 at 21:59
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    Totally fine with that opinion. Art Id'ing is a much more nebulous area and one that tends to be accomplished with a google as you pointed out below. Anything that isn't found with a web search would require a team of art historian/provenance experts and they are probably busy. Still it is satisfying area to help when its in my area of knowledge and learn from when its not... Thanks much for the nod to Area 51! Very interesting, very meta beta!
    – rebusB
    Jan 29, 2019 at 22:11

3 Answers 3


I don't think these should be on topic.

We are here to discuss the application of arts and crafts. Identifying a work of art doesn't relate to application or learning of arts and crafts. IDing existing works is, essentially, art history and we are specifically not in the business of art history.

Now, if someone finds a piece of art and they want to know what type of art it is so that they can research that style to make something similar or want information on how to replicate the techniques, that's different. That directly relates to applied art but, in that case, the name of the work or who the artist is will be largely irrelevant.

In the case of this question, that's not happening.

As such, it should remain closed.

  • Of the identification question we are willing to handle art identification is not one of them. How can we guarantee we are going to be right? All the questions would be "Who [painted|made|built] this?". Like you say, this knowledge has little practical application for our site and even to the asker.
    – Matt
    Feb 20, 2017 at 13:42
  • Related: crafts.meta.stackexchange.com/q/348/30
    – Erica
    Jan 4, 2019 at 21:14

To help those users having posted an identify-this-painting question, there is a subreddit exactly for that purpose:

Another way to help identify a painting is to take a proper picture of it, and upload it to a reverse image search engine:

Make sure the picture is of good quality, has colours that closely resemble the real ones, and to use the perspective tool in Photoshop or similar tool in alternative image editing software if necessary to cut away the unrelated content.


Came to meta to see what the consensus was on this topic. I guess it comes down to "Arts & Crafts" not being about art history. That is pretty definitive, but I think it leaves a major part of art practice out of the equation.

I would posit that there is value to knowing the name of a work and its artist. When researching technique it will lead to more examples the aspiring artist could draw from. There are many questions from naive artists looking to develop their skills and exposure to art's history is important in that sense.

That being said many art identification posts are lazy or obscure and I could see how it could lead to a free-for-all of unanswered and unanswerable questions. So it makes sense that such questions are off topic here just wish there was a way to handle them, or someplace we could send the questioners that was able to help.

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    To date, most of them are "answered" with a Google image search, which is the only resource I'm aware of other outside of an extensive education in art history and exposure to artworks. I do take your point about identifying works being helpful for artists, though. This is something that can always be reconsidered in future if the userbase increases, the sort of questions change, or other community evolution happens.
    – Erica
    Jan 4, 2019 at 19:33

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