Buying art can be a daunting experience (we should know – we do a lot of it ourselves).
Unlike replacing a broken cooker, it can be a little harder to justify getting a new picture, even if it does fit perfectly into that empty space above the sofa.
Some galleries like to make you feel even more uncomfortable by not showing you the prices. Then, when you hear of record-breaking Picasso paintings selling for a whopping £115m, you start to wonder: is buying art now solely the preserve of the super-rich? Even the artists can’t quite believe it.
Which is why we’ve come up with a list of 7 big-name artists whose works you can own for around £500. Because we know what it’s like to be on a budget. And because they’ll look better on your wall than on a TV screen in Christie’s.
1. Pablo Picasso
Needing no introduction, Picasso is widely considered the most influential artist to have ever lived. His utterly unpretentious work, often witty and always brilliant, rocked the art world throughout the 20th century and continues to shape it even today.
A constant innovator, Picasso relished experimenting with printing techniques, producing editions of his print suites that can be picked up for sheer fractions of his oil paintings. We recommend the bold bull-fighting linocuts and the highly original Diurnes suite, both starting at £350.
Fans of Picasso’s prints might also enjoy the vibrant offerings of famed Spanish artist Joan Miró, whose surreal, abstract lithographs are often priced around the £500 mark
2. Henri Matisse
One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Matisse’s art is joyfully innocent and expressive, characterised by fluid lines and sumptuous colour.
Exhibition-goers will recall the Tate’s recent display of Matisse’s late, playful paper cutouts, a major show which brought huge numbers of visitors to the London gallery to enjoy these beautiful and accessible works.
Many of the images from the Tate’s exhibition, such as the famous Nu Bleu series, can be bought as lithographs for as little as £250. Well worth a perusal if you like calm or colourful art.
Look to the intimate lithography of Matisse’s contemporary Marc Chagall for similarly joyous work around £350
The characteristic style of Blake’s wood engraving
3. William Blake
For most of us, William Blake will be a name we’ll have met in English classes at school, but Blake’s influence on British art was perhaps more emphatic than any of his excellent literary works.
Best loved are his wood engravings, in which he developed a style that changed the way later artists approached the medium. Blending Christian imagery with mystical elements, his art is highly sought after, recently being shown in a major successful exhibition at the Oxford Ashmolean museum.
Look out for his wonderful illustrations for Thornton’s Virgil and his lesser known etchings, many of which can be found for under £400.
4. David Hockney
Many will recognise the thick-framed spectacles and scruffy blond mop of national treasure David Hockney, whose natural wit and superb draughtsmanship have earned him widespread admiration from critics.
Refreshingly lacking in the pretension shared amongst some of his contemporaries, Hockney’s love of etching has led to several print series, many of which are readily accessible to buyers on a budget. We’re particularly fond of the whimsical Brothers Grimm suite, with etchings ranging from £350-950.
5. JMW Turner
For those more Romantically minded, you can’t go wrong with Turner. The 19th-century painter and engraver appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance recently, with a large exhibition at the Tate in 2014 and a critically acclaimed film starring Timothy Spall as the irascible, eponymous artist.
Turner’s engraving suite Picturesque Views in England and Wales was a commercial failure at publication – not for lack of ingenuity, the images representing the artist at the height of his abilities, but in its over-ambitious size. Exceptionally detailed and masterfully executed, many can be bought for under £500.
Admirers of Turner’s landscapes should look to the work of John Constable, another beloved Romantic artist whose engravings are sold for as little as £150
6. Andy Warhol
Names – and egos – don’t get much bigger in the art world than Andy Warhol. His Campbell Soup images heralded the reign of Pop Art through the early 1960s and beyond and have become ubiquitous icons of art the world over.
Many artists in the last 50 years have parroted Warhol’s observational approach, yet very few have done so with the same satirical humour. Re-printings of Warhol’s unmistakable multicolour portraits of cultural figures like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe can be found for £750.
7. Eric Gill
Our final big-name artist comes in the form of Eric Gill. While you may not have heard of him, almost everyone will be well acquainted with his work: Gill, a brilliant sculptor, engraver and typographer, designed the typeface still in use by Penguin Books’ paperbacks, the BBC logo and the Spanish Government, and which was previously used for the nationalised British Railways.
A prolific printer with a consummate understanding of graphic design, Gill’s wood engravings are easily collectible and supremely affordable: hundreds of beautiful examples can be found, ranging from £450 to the smallest miniature works, a number of which can be picked up for just £45.
Those who enjoy Gill’s style of engraving should look to the oft-overlooked print work of David Jones, a colleague of Eric Gill and whose work often sells for under £200