How to Place Older Artwork on Your Website

“Older” artwork presents a dilemma when designing an artist’s website. On one hand, it’s nice for visitors to see your progression as an artist, you’re proud of the work, and the art is still for sale. On the other hand, you want your current work to be most prominent, and you want visitors to know what you’re working on now.
If someone were opening your website as they would open a portfolio, you could guide them through a tour of your career—showing them the works in the order you prefer. In a portfolio, this is usually front to back. But the Internet doesn’t work that way. Thanks to search engines, visitors might land on any number of pages on your site before they see your home page. You have to be ready.
Every page has to be a landing page.

Kathy Knaus art
Kathy Knaus was happy she left older artwork on her website. Someone found it and selected it to be featured on a billboard in downtown Denver. ©The Artist

So how do you show “older” art on your website? Here’s one way.
Your main menu would have a link titled Art or Portfolio. Clicking on that link would take site visitors to a page with your most recent work or with categories of that work.
Your primary art pages (meaning the pages that display the art you want people to see first) would be the fewest clicks away from the Home page. In the following example, Bronze Sculpture is a primary art page. It’s one of your categories.
Home -> Portfolio -> Bronze Sculpture (or Recent Bronze Sculpture)
You feature 10 recent works on that Bronze Sculpture landing page. You could then have secondary pages to show your older artwork—linking from the Bronze Sculpture primary page. They’re not links in your main menu, but are only found from your primary art pages.
In the examples below, both wildlife and figurative works are secondary pages (remember that secondary pages are more clicks from the Home page).
Home -> Portfolio -> Bronze Sculpture -> Wildlife 1995-2005
Home -> Portfolio -> Bronze Sculpture -> Portraits & Figures 1995-2000

Home -> Portfolio -> Bronze Sculpture -> Wildlife prior to 2006
Home -> Portfolio -> Bronze Sculpture -> Portraits & Figures before 2001

The above examples for secondary pages are better choices than “Older Work” or “Archived Work.” Site visitors will appreciate the descriptive categories and these categories highlight your subject matter (or medium or style) rather than when the work was created.
Another reason to use descriptive categories for your Web pages is that, as I said, you can’t control where visitors land on your site. Every page has to be welcoming. Every page has to have your name on it and show visitors exactly where they are. Every page has to provide context.
FINAL WORD: Older art has a place on your website, but not necessarily front and center.  Descriptive language and clear navigation on your pages will allow site visitors to easily locate, appreciate, and purchase (!) your current and past artwork.

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19 thoughts on “How to Place Older Artwork on Your Website”

  1. Thanks Alyson! Great idea on having your porfolio show “most recent” with a link to the older works of art. I’ve been wondering on the best way to handle those not so new, but still good paintings.

  2. What a great way to handle an issue I’m sure many artists have. My website is overdue for an update; I’m considering one of the template services that make it quicker & easier to change & move images so I’ll be more on top of it this year. I’ve pondered how to handle this problem and you have presented a great way to let people see the older work but still keep the new work front and center.
    Thanks so much!

  3. I have a section that’s called Way Back. It’s a playful way to keep the work there but find a way to foreground the work I want to highlight.
    Interesting to read this now. I’ve recently been having discussions with friends about not listing any dates on my website. Many artists and galleries have this strategy.

  4. Perhaps my situation is a little unique for why I show “older” work on my web site. I have a separate web page of some of my best “older” sold art work. These are thumbnail images that express my style and subject matter choices while I build up a new body of work. Due to a hand tremor painting stopped for ten years so starting again in 2008 I had only a few new pieces to put on the new web site. These ‘old’ pieces are good enough (as thumbnail images) to compliment where I am at today. When I have enough new work the Sold Art page of older pieces may not be necessary. However the few “older” works I still have on hand would not be put on my web site for sale unless I reworked them because, thankfully, there is noticeable improvment even after that long break! I want my current best to be ‘out there’ and would only use older work for a retrospective show.

  5. I have thought much about this issue but decided that my older work was just as important as my recent work, so the dating of the work was irrelevant, and may imply that your older work was art no one wanted or you had trouble selling. To a first time visitor to my site, all the work is new.
    I like to create lots of catagories so visitors don’t see too many works at a time (any art can be categorized in some way or another), can easily find what they may be looking for, and I use the archive catagory for the sold works (with it’s easy to do) . That may be too much art for some, but I think people like choices when it comes to art, and if I have an older piece with a newer piece and they both fit what my viewer is looking for, why should I relegate the older piece to a place with older works and make it harder for them to find it? Sending out emails that have a link to my newest piece as it’s produced makes more sense if people are looking for only my newest work. It even gives me another excuse to email my subscribers.

  6. This is an important thing to consider…thanks for the article.
    I tend to purge my site at least semi-annually (granted I am a prolific painter)…and archive (which through my website provider is one possible category) the best of work that I am either not actively showing or work that has sold.
    I think it is important to look at one’s own work with fresh eyes…a year after something has been painted, you might be more discriminating. I really want the patron/customer to know what they can expect from me so I only show work I would want to represent now. Janice

  7. While I think this addresses some of the options, I think it may also depend on what your art form is. For me, I tend to find that I can “revitalize” my older pieces by compiling them into a collection. While I’m not quite vain enough to sell “The classic works of Ewan Grantham”, certainly a collection of my photos with a story to pull them together can take some of my older artworks and make them new again. FWIW…

  8. Thank you so very much. What perfect timing for me. I just went through several file drawers of my artwork that I had been holding onto and was wondering how to handle the old artwork. This is perfect!

  9. Any suggestions on how old a piece should be when it goes into the “archives”? Currently I’m showing my current paintings from 2008-2009. I’m wondering if 2007 is too old. Choices choices.

  10. I personally think that so long the work still fits with your current style, or represents you positively, the date is irrelevant. Getting people to look at it is what matters.
    A structure with ‘collections’ or ‘series’ works for me. A selection of my best pieces goes on my portfolio website which I send to galleries and collectors. Older work I still like but does not fit in with what I do at the moment (like old studies, traditional still lifes and landscapes), or new work I don’t feel the selection on my portfolio benefits from, I only put on my FB page:

  11. This is a dilemma I face every year! My art work is still valid, beautiful, and I want to share it, but my webpages become cluttered with over 25 images on each. No one wants to see that many on each page, LOL.
    My aunt recently asked why some of my work was missing, and what happened to it. Since her question a few weeks ago, I have been struggling to find a way to keep them in view but not directly on my website. Last night, I think I found an even better way of doing the same action you describe for pages at the networking meeting I attended last night.
    Thank you for constantly providing great ideas and ART ACTIONS!

  12. Pingback: Art Marketing Action Podcast: Placing Older Art on Your Website — Art Biz Blog

  13. I composed my website as one continuous scroll, thus eliminating the chance of a visitor hitting the “wrong” page. As an artist/musician/writer, I think you have about .05 seconds to “hook” anyone who visits your website, so you’d better have an eye-catching, relevant image on each and every page! If someone becomes bored before they reach the end of my scroll-type site, they go elsewhere…I would.

  14. This is a particularly strong worry for me as I have painted in very many styles. All related but seemingly as if done by separate artists. Some are bright and colorful others in neutral monochrome, some bizaar Surealism, others Pop oriented, some Impressionist landscape, others traditional portraiture. I almost feel to leave the past behind when it can be so confusing to a new potential client….

  15. To me categories are more important than age. And I like the idea above (James) about a long scroll, altho not too long. Each of my pages displays newer work at the top, with older work at the bottom. The newer work always loads first anyway, and each piece shows off various features of that type item (I’m a fiberartist, not a painter). Another eye-catcher – I like to use images of iconic paintings to model my work, so right up front is a strong image with lots of color.

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