Over the course of an artist's career, their signature will change many times. The changes can be subtle or drastic, but they all serve a purpose. For instance, Canadian artist Glen Loates is best known for his depictions of Canadian wildlife and landscapes. His earlier work features a simple signature consisting of his initials, "GL."
As his career progressed, Loates' signature became more elaborate. It now includes his full name, "Glen Loates," usually stacked and sometimes incorporating an underline. This change was likely made to reflect Loates' increased fame and recognition as well as to clearly identify who painted the piece.
So, why do artists' signatures change over time? There are several reasons, including the following:
To reflect the artist's increased fame and recognition
To make it easier to read
Another reason why artists' signatures may change over time is to make them easier to read. As an artist's fame increases, so do the likelihood that their signature will be reproduced in a variety of formats and sizes. As a result, the signature may need to be simplified so that it can be easily read regardless of the format or size.
To reflect the artist's evolving style
An artist's signature may also change over time to reflect their evolving style. For instance, early in his career, American artist Jackson Pollock signed his name in a very simple, straightforward manner. However, as his style became more abstract, so did his signature, until it was little more than a series of squiggles. This change reflects Pollock's move away from traditional forms of art toward something more experimental.
To reflect the artist's changing circumstances
To make a statement
Some artists use their signature as a way to make a statement about their work or their beliefs. For instance, 20th-century German painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff often signed his paintings with a simple cross instead of his name. This was likely due to his Christian beliefs, as well as his desire to move away from traditional forms of art.
No matter the reason for the change, an artist's signature is an important part of their work. It is a reflection of their identity and can tell us a lot about their career and development as an artist.
Below are some examples of Glen's signatures along with the approximate year they were used.