artwork ethics

Is it unethical/sinful/illegal to photograph an original painting, enlarge it, frame it, and give it as a gift?

Excellent question! :clapping::thumbsup::yup:

I guess it would depend. If it’s taken to be exclusively the artwork, I would think, “yes”. If the artwork is included…it’s a picture of you with it,…possibly not, right?

If it’s just trying to copy artwork, I think it might be a form of theft. Someone else know more about this?

Why…thank you…:blushing:

There are a couple people on staff where I work who are tremendously helpful, and I wanted to show my appreciation by giving them each a meaningful gift. One of the people is smitten with a painting on display in one of our buildings, and I had a spontaneous thought: take a photo of it, frame it…etc.

I think I won’t follow through with that idea, but the question remains.

There are a few things to consider. The painting likely has a copyright. There may even be a contract associated with it that grants the museum, gallery or individual owner the right to copy it, but not others. Sometimes, a painting is sold and the artist retains the right to make copies/photos of it. For example, we usually buy reproduction rights for book covers, but, in one case, an artist asked for permission to reproduce one cover (minus the words) as a limited edition print, which we granted.

Another example is companies that sell prints of original art that can be full size, or, if that’s not possible, smaller than the original. The artist and company both profit from the sale of these prints.

Of course, going that route means paying for the print then having it matted or framed or both.

All that needs to be done is to ask someone who knows and find out if you can take a photo of it. It may be that the person who owns the painting has the right to say yes or no.


With reference to original works of art, if you get permission from the artist/photographer to do so, it would be OK.

Also, you could find out whether there is a print for sale. Sale of prints provides income to the artist/photographer.

I am a painter, and will attempt an answer to your question. I have sold many paintings to corporations, and know that they are currently hanging in office buildings. The purchaser of the painting owns the original painting, but not the image. I can make prints of an already purchased painting, and sell them, which honestly will increase the value of the original oil painting if I make limited addition prints. I CAN NOT make another oil painting exactly like the one that is already sold, because by buying one of my paintings, the purchaser owns the one original oil painting- which is what makes it valuable. If you photograph the painting, with the intent to reproduce it for a gift, then you are essentially stealing from the artist, who still owns the rights to the image. Odds are that the artist will have no problem with you doing this, as you have no intention of profiting from it- but I would suggest that first you try to reach the artist and get permission. As someone already stated, the artist may also have prints for sale- which will have been overseen by the artist and adequately represent the original work. Years ago, my brother went to an office and noticed prints of my paintings hanging on the wall. When he asked about them, he was told that they were printed from my website and framed! I, of course, had no idea that this was done- and was horrified- but because I consider my art to be a gift from God, I did nothing and was a little complimented that someone would go to the trouble to reproduce my work. Other painters might feel differently, which could lead to some trouble for you. I hope this helps.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit