Could you please help me with this? A bit of context:

Look at this painting. In the painting you can see a little girl. So, it is a painting of a girl. A famous painter painted it. So it is a painting ___ a famous painter.

I thought we should use "of" to show that the painting depicts the person, while "by" shows who painted it, but in the test it was "of" in both cases. Is "by" acceptable /correct or not in the latter case?.

  • I have been doing online tests recently and the quality is shockingly bad. Your analysis is correct. – WendyG Mar 21 '18 at 12:42
  • Welcome to EL&U. In this case it is a painting by a famous painter. If we spoke of 'a painting of a famous painter' we would mean either 1. That the painter owns the painting or 2. That the painting depicts the painter. 'By' is an ablative expression. 'Of' is a genitive expresion. – Nigel J Mar 21 '18 at 12:45
  • @NigelJ If someone refer's to "a painting of Van Gogh", 99% of the time, it will be referring to a painting that depicts Van Gogh. There's far simpler and more unambiguous ways to phrase the possessive (like simply saying "Van Gogh's painting"). "Of" can be used to denote membership/ownership (the ides of March, the Queen of England), but in this particular case, using "of" for that purpose will likely be misunderstood. "By" is absolutely the better choice here. – Nuclear Wang Mar 21 '18 at 13:02
  • @NuclearWang I agree with what you are saying but one must allow for the 1% (if that is, indeed, an accurate figure), because it is both grammatically and semantically correct. – Nigel J Mar 21 '18 at 13:05
  • I feel a subtle difference between giving the name of the painter or just a general statement: This is a painting of a famous painter. This is a painting by Vincent van Gogh. – Thinkeye Mar 21 '18 at 14:22

This is easily answered by example.

This is a painting by Vincent van Gogh:

enter image description here

This is a painting of Vincent van Gogh1:

enter image description here

This is a painting both by and of Vincent van Gogh:

enter image description here

1 If we allow paint as a verb to refer to MS Paint rather than oils etc. Some "artistic" licence is needed.

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