When does art become priceless?

So when does art become priceless? Recently a combination including one of my paintings, tropical storm Imelda and a comment from a client gave added meaning and answer to the question.

First, when you think of something as being priceless it generally means you can’t put a monetary value on the item under consideration. In art, you might call to mind something purchased for X millions of dollars by some museum or extremely wealthy individual and let’s face it, puts something like that out of reach for most of us. Thus, you might consider it a priceless work of art. On the other hand it could be something of insignificant monetary value, but priceless to you. Perhaps a masterpiece drawing done by your child given to you as a gift. You treasure it and would never think of discarding or parting with it even if it looked like a Picasso that was done while blindfolded.

A heartfelt message

A very touching scenario came about when one of my eBay clients won a recent painting. It so happened that it coincided that the painting was shipped and en route when tropical storm Imelda hit the South East Texas area inundating the region with torrential amounts of rain. Concerned for his welfare and family, I sent a message. My client’s reply was touching and gave a new perspective on the piece he purchased. The following is an excerpt.

“Thanks my friend. It has been a tough 24 hrs. I live on a hill in between the border of Labelle and Fannett TX. Fannett registered 32” of rain. All my neighbors were flooded except 2, they share the same hill that we are on. My sons friend who lives on the other side of the road, (name withheld) was killed this morning, trying to rescue some horses. A downed power line got him. It’s been a real sad time with all this. I have a neighbor that has throat cancer, we got him out, he is real fragile, it took about 7 hrs, but he is safe now in LA. (Louisiana) I did take some time, and had a reflection on that painting. I keep a screen shot of my favorite paintings. This one that I won is my all time favorite, because it’s like the area I grew up in, by Enchanted Rock, very similar to scenery on Crabapple Road in Gillespie County. I found a slice of solace looking at the photograph of the painting. Thanks, that is what your art is capable of doing.”

The Painting Arrives

Once mail delivery was able to be resumed and the painting arrived he said: ” I received your painting today. It was unbelievable as expected. Today was the first day we received mail since the storm. It was a great surprise. Thanks for everything and look forward to seeing more of your painting in the future.”

This is the painting  we are talking about called “Sky Drama.”

William Byron Hagerman landscape oil painting bluebonnets at sunset


It would seem that in this instance my art brought something you can’t put a price tag on.  I so much appreciated his sharing his feelings. I’m honored.


6 thoughts on “When does art become priceless?

  1. Shane

    I always thought a priceless painting can’t be brought or sold. Usually under some heritage law. And example of this would be the Mona Lisa.
    When a painting has been sold. Now it has a price on it. So it’s not priceless no matter how much is paid.
    Just a thought

    1. William Post author

      Thanks for the comment Shane. Perhaps I should have clarified the use of the term “priceless.” The Merriam Webster Dictionary online defines it as the following:

      1a : having a value beyond any price : invaluable (The Mona Lisa example is a good one)
      b : costly because of rarity or quality : precious
      2 : having worth in terms of other than market value
      3 : delightfully amusing, odd, or absurd

      My intent was along the lines of having worth in terms of other than market value. True, when something is purchased it now has a value and sometimes that value may increase and has a greater estimate of value due to the 1b definition. Few things ultimately reach the kind of status as 1a. However, sometimes a person will acquire something that has special meaning for them and for that reason they may consider it priceless, even if it’s not in the strictest sense of the word. As for definition #3 I might could paint a painting with a yellow circle on a white canvas and call it “Sunrise.” Perhaps it would be priceless since it would be amusing, odd and absurd. 🙂


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