To Title...or Not?

No work of art should go untitled…“every child deserves a name….it is simply disrespectful to the picture, the viewer and, ultimately, to the gallery owner” (not to title works of art)….so stated artist Neo Rauch in an interview …the German painter continued to assert that…. "I have to ensure people linger in front of my pictures. Viewers must be rewarded—if people devote time to the picture then they must receive something in return"….

Neo Rauch’s enigmatic paintings, an intensely coloured mix of realism, surrealism, pop art and comic-book imagery, have brought him huge international success. In Germany his work still fuels debate on the pros and cons of figurative painting.
The Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden held a successful Rauch retrospective. Curated by art historian Werner Spies, the show covered the artist’s development over the past 20 years. Of particular interest was the presentation of Rauch’s first sculpture, titled Nachhut, 2011

Do you agree with Rauch?…do you think titles are important, and are all your works titled or do you think it does not matter?


  • evon ski
    evon skiover 1 year ago

    ver interesting topic. I usually do title all my works. I do understand why some people do not. I am more in favor of a title that gives a clue. I did do a work once in which the viewer is asked to chose the title from a collection. It can be fun to have one group view a work with one title and another to view with either no title or very different title and then compare thoughts about work. I think it is very much up to the artist and artist’s intent as kind of work. I think it should at least have a number or something to identify it. Thanks as always for the great topic!!! You ROCK Janis!!!

  • I agree….I think it’s better to give the viewers little glimpse into the artist’s mind…a jumping off place…then they can add their own interpretations of the work…I have found that paintings that are a total mystery don’t do as well with viewers…glad you like the post…thanks so much for the feedback..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Alan Taylor Jeffries
    Alan Taylor Je...over 1 year ago

    I believe every work should have a title but not necessarily one that “interprets” the work. Personally I like titling paintings so that they make people wonder why they are titled that.

  • I agree Alan…when I first started to post works, I felt I had to include something of the topic in the title, but now I rarely do that…the titles mean something to me as well as to the work, and I think all works should be titled unless the word untitled refers to some element of the image itself..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Adam Bogusz
    Adam Boguszover 1 year ago

    I always title my paintings. I like to leave my titles as “open” as possible. It leaves the door open for the viewer which I try to do with the imagery as well.
    I actually had to rename a painting once. A gallery contacted me when a young man came to the counter with a small painting of mine. He was just about to buy it for his girlfriend/fiance when he discovered that I had titled it “Just Friends” !!! Not the sort of message he was trying to convey :)

  • It’s interesting that you had to retitle for a buyer…however I am sure most paintings have several possible titles in them and it did not hurt the work to be retitled…
    I always title mine as well…I met a painter once who never titled his works but left it up to the buyers to add titles if they felt like it…he had no relationships with the works at all…he painted them either outdoors or on a garage floor using materials he gathered from dumpsters and ends of house paint he begged from friends…while working if anything dropped on the work he allowed it to stay there..leaves, dirt, junk, anything….as a result they had no real subject matter and did not reflect his ideas except for the fact that he used everything that was used before…of course his work is going to degrade because it’s not archival…when I pointed that out to him, he said he did not care as he would be dead by then…prices for his works were in the twenty thousand range…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Adam Bogusz
    Adam Boguszover 1 year ago

    you knew Jackson Pollock?! :)

  • Ha…I guess it did read like him now that I come to think of it…this guy was nowhere as talented as Pollock, so that’s not saying a whole lot depending on how you feel about Pollock…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Mel Brackstone
    Mel Brackstoneover 1 year ago

    I really struggle to find titles, but agree that it’s not in my nature to leave a work untitled. I do like Alan’s comment!

  • I don’t find it too difficult as so often for me it’s all about what inspired me which is usually a poem or story, but sometimes the title of a particular work could be a whole bunch of things, and then it becomes really hard to decide…thanks for joining the discussion Mel..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Mui-Ling Teh
    Mui-Ling Tehover 1 year ago

    I like Alan’s comment too. Nowadays my works are often titled based on how I feel or the poetry I accompany with my work (if I have one). Of course there will still be times my titles are simply the subjects – like a place in my travels.

  • Yes sometimes they can be as simple as Winter Evening for me or Parachutes as my most recent one is called, but I think all works should be titled…intriguing or simple they provide communication with the viewer, an instant bond…

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Virginia McGowan
    Virginia McGowanover 1 year ago

    Yes. but prob cos I love thinking up titles. Don’t need to think, [thankfully ] ;-))) whew …. it’s fun….. LOL @ Adam re J.P.

  • So do I…sometimes it’s easy as the work tells me right away, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth…and yes I was describing Jackson Pollock without even being aware of it..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Jim Phillips
    Jim Phillipsover 1 year ago

    The first dozen words from Rauch’s quote wraps up how I feel. I know I’m going to name my children….lol.

  • Many moons ago the Chinese did not name daughters…they were numbered no1, no 2, etc. they were not considered worthy of names as the girlfriend’s great grandmother was no 3 daughter till the day she died…the only way she was differentiated from her siblings was by her one in the family could say anything about her as they knew nothing…sad..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • markhadafairday
    markhadafairdayover 1 year ago

    I title all my work because???? well I just do. It’s kind on like a name of a person. this is Joe. then you get to know Joe..So a title is an introduction to a piece.

  • Jut so…a title gives a piece personality…immediately…it does not prevent the viewer from adding their own ideas or interpretations, in the same way that after some people met Joe, some will like him and some will say “meh”….thanks for joining the discussion Mark..

    – © Janis Zroback

  • Jacki Stokes
    Jacki Stokesover 1 year ago

    I always give my works titles. I think giving a work a title helps to show the viewer that the artist has made an emotional connection with the work. It doesn’t stop the viewer from making a different connection. (As with my encaustic called “Suffragette Flora” – some people saw a woman in a skirt with her legs on show, while others saw what I saw, which was a flower!)
    Purely from a practical point of view though, if somebody likes your work in an exhibition, and they say to you "I really like that one called “untitled” – if there’s more than one “untitled”, how are you to know which painting they are referring to?

  • That is so true…which untitled would it be?..I see so many of them as I surf around RB and as I look at them titles pop into my head so quickly, I wonder why the artist did not bother taking the time to add something even if it was just a number…thanks so much for your feedback Jackie..

    – © Janis Zroback