Artist Signatures

Did you know that January 23 is National Handwriting Day? This holiday celebrates penmanship and the art of writing. “Why January 23?,” you might ask. Because that is the birthday of John Hancock, a man whose name is synonymous with the word signature. In celebration of this day, we wanted to take a look at some signatures from the Museum’s collection and consider what they might reveal about the artists.

The size of the first letter of a signature can allude to the signer’s feelings of self as compared to the rest of the world. For example, if the first letter is lowercase, the signer might be more grounded; however, if the first letter is capitalized, then that may indicate a higher sense of self-esteem or feeling of self-worth.

The slant of a signature can also be revealing. An upward slant, as seen in “Hogue” above, can indicate that the signer is ambitious or forward thinking. A downward slant can hint at a lack of self-esteem.

Which name or names a signer chooses to sign with can also be telling. Signing with initials only can indicate a lack of self-identification or a strong inclination for summarization. It is perhaps not surprising that Mondrian, for example, signed his minimalist paintings with just his initials.

Someone who signs with their first initial and their last name is likely to exhibit a balance between a strong sense of self and a strong connection with their family.

Whereas someone who signs with just their last name tends to put their loyalty and love for family above themselves.

Those who add an underline beneath their signature are likely to talk about themselves, but not excessively.

What does your signature say about you? Is your signature more like Pablo Picasso’s or Alexandre Hogue’s?

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.


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