Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 9:20 EDT

All 212,000 of the United Kingdom’s Oil Paintings are Now Online

December 13, 2012

LONDON, December 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –

Today the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF) and the BBC completed their hugely
ambitious project to put online the United Kingdom’s entire collection of oil paintings in
public ownership. This makes the UK the first country in the world to give such access to
its national collection of paintings. In total, 3,217 venues across the UK have
participated in the project and 211,861 paintings are now on the Your Paintings website at

Your Paintings is a partnership between the PCF and the BBC. The PCF started making a
photographic record of the UK’s oil paintings in 2003. The Your Paintings website, built
by the BBC, was launched with 63,000 paintings in June 2011. The project covers paintings
not only held by museums and galleries but also works in universities, local councils,
hospitals and even paintings held in fire stations, zoos and a lighthouse. Typically 80%
of these paintings are not on view whilst the vast majority have never been photographed.
All oil paintings owned by the nation are shown irrespective of perceived quality and

Your Paintings now allows everyone to see the full extent of the national collection
for free together with BBC TV documentary archive and biographical information for
selected artists from Oxford University Press. It is a project that will benefit art
enthusiasts, students, curators, researchers, tourists and anyone unable to make the
journey to the collections. In February 2013, the BBC will lead a nationwide celebration
of Your Paintings with many opportunities for the public to discover paintings that have
rarely been on view. More information will be announced on Twitter @your_paintings.

To help the PCF and BBC identify and catalogue what can be seen in each painting, the
public is being invited to ‘tag’ the nation’s paintings. Tagging is fun, easy and you
don’t need to be an art expert to do it. The results will allow future users of the Your
Paintings website to find paintings of subjects that interest them. Your Paintings Tagger
can be reached through the Your Paintings website.


Taken together, this collection of 212,000 paintings presents an unparalleled insight
into the nation’s culture and history over 600 years both at the national and local level.
Much of it constitutes an important pre-photographic record. It also presents an important
survey of changing tastes and collecting habits. Approximately a quarter of the paintings
are portraits with a preponderance of mayors, admirals, royalty and unknown sitters.
Nestling among the tens of thousands of portraits are Eric Cantona and other Manchester
United footballers painted in the style of Piero della Francesca and Mantegna; the entire
town council of Crewkerne in Somerset painted by a fellow councillor; and Sean Connery
painted as a life model in 1952 at the Edinburgh College of Art.


Paintings by over 37,000 artists are shown on Your Paintings. Old Masters and leading
British painters are represented in considerable numbers: 391 paintings by Joshua
Reynolds, 348 by Turner, 281 by Gainsborough, 273 by Walter Sickert, 189 by Stanley
Spencer and 114 by Van Dyck. The less well-known John Everett and Marianne North have over
2,000 works between them. Surprising inclusions include paintings by Noel Coward, Cecil
Beaton, Gertrude Jekyll, Derek Jarman and Dwight D Eisenhower. Approaching 30,000
paintings do not have firm artist attributions, leaving the possibility of important
discoveries in years to come.


The National Trust is the largest single collection on the website with 12,567
paintings followed by Tate, Glasgow Museums, the National Maritime Museum and National
Galleries Scotland. However, approximately half of the collections on the site have 10 or
fewer paintings.

117,000 paintings are held across 2,197 collection venues in England outside London;
46,000 paintings (273 venues) in London; 30,500 paintings (441 venues) in Scotland; 12,500
paintings (195 venues) in Wales; 4,000 paintings (63 venues) in Northern Ireland; and
1,800 paintings (48 venues) in the Channel Islands.

40,000 paintings have been added to Your Paintings today in this final upload of
paintings to the site. Collections added include the National Galleries of Scotland; the
National Trust for Scotland; Manchester City Galleries; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery,
Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, the Palace of Westminster, Dulwich Picture Gallery; The
Courtauld Gallery; The Wallace Collection; and many more collections from Edinburgh,
Southern Scotland, Bristol, Greater Manchester and Greater London. Also included in this
upload are all the Oxford Colleges and many of the Cambridge Colleges – institutions that
are not in public ownership but have joined the Your Paintings website for the benefit of
wider public awareness and research.


Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “I congratulate The Public Catalogue Foundation on
this tremendous achievement. Having all of a nation’s oil paintings in public collections
available online is a world first, and I’m delighted that these 200,000-plus works can now
be viewed from around the world at the click of a button.”

Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland is home to a wealth of oil
paintings, with more than 30,000 held in collections across the country. The successful
completion of this hugely ambitious project means our nation’s best-known treasures and
hidden gems are now available online, free of charge, for all to enjoy.”

Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate, said: “The Your Paintings website reveals the depth
and breadth of the nation’s collections of paintings, many of them published online for
the first time. This ambitious collaboration between organisations across the UK connects
audiences with art in an immediate way, something we will take for granted in the future.”

John Leighton, Director-General of National Galleries Scotland, said: “The completion
of this catalogue is an amazing achievement and a cause for great celebration. The Your
Paintings website demonstrates very clearly how the reach and impact of public collections
is changing dramatically in the digital age bringing us all much closer to the paintings
that we own and, I am sure, encouraging even more people to search out the actual objects
in museums and galleries across the country.”

Professor Deborah Swallow, Marit Rausing Director of The Courtauld Institute of Art,
said: “As a university educating the art historians, conservators and curators of the
future, we recognise how important access is not only to the paintings that are on view to
the public but also those that are less accessible. Through Your Paintings and new
technology, everybody can now enjoy the nation’s collection and actively engage in art

Sarah Staniforth, Museums and Collections Director, National Trust, said: “The
National Trust has the largest collection of oil paintings of a single institution in
England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in its care and on permanent public display. This
will be the first time our paintings from our historic house collections will all be seen
in glorious colour and worldwide, thanks to the Public Catalogue Foundation’s photography
campaign and the BBC.”

Martin Grimes, Web Manager, Manchester City Galleries, said: “Manchester Art Gallery
is really proud to be part of the ambitious Your Paintings project which will allow us to
share our extraordinary collection with the world. We have uploaded over 2,200 of our oil
paintings to the site, the culmination of over two years’ work to photograph and document
them so for the first time they can been seen in one place. Being part of a national
collection also creates a new context for these works and means that even familiar
paintings can be seen in ways we could never have previously imagined.”

Kate Mavor, National Trust for Scotland said: “It is fantastic that each of the
Trust’s 2,000 paintings are now available as part of this amazing resource. From stern
lairds with their beloved pets to stunning landscapes and dazzling colourists, the Trust’s
fine art collection is one of the nation’s treasures.”

Michael Craig-Martin, Artist, said: “There is something fundamentally egalitarian
about Your Paintings. It means all the nation’s paintings can be known to and accessible
by the public that owns them. It will prove also an important tool for artists and
cultural institutions alike. It allows artists to find out definitively the location of
their works in public collections, greatly assisting them in the planning of exhibitions
and publications. The comprehensive photographing of all works being undertaken by The
Public Catalogue Foundation is already proving invaluable from a curatorial point of view.
Your Paintings will help museums to have a better knowledge of their own collections and,
as a result, make better use of them. I hope it will incite public interest in new works
and encourage curators to rotate collections more frequently, breathing fresh life into
the nation’s art archives, rescuing forgotten treasures from obscurity, and finding
important new audiences for our public collections.”

Saul Nasse, BBC Controller of Learning, said: “I’m delighted we can now say the UK’s
vast collection of oil paintings is available for all to see, 24 hours a day. The Public
Catalogue Foundation has photographed every painting in loving detail and my team at the
BBC have created a brilliant website. But we need one more group, the public, to join in
our endeavour. We want people to get online and tag the paintings with the fascinating
facts that will make the site even more engaging.”

Mark Bell, BBC Commissioning Editor, Arts, said: “This partnership between the PCF and
the BBC has achieved something special and unique, yet we are only just beginning to see
the potential of what it means to make this national treasure accessible. Taken in its
entirety, Your Paintings is the story of the country in pictures, but it is the individual
discoveries, new attributions and connections that are most exciting – it will be
wonderful to see our understanding of the collection deepen as increasing numbers of
people explore and engage with it.”

Fred Hohler, Founder of the PCF, said: “Your Paintings is complete! The achievement
belongs to all those that made it happen: curators and collection managers and the teams
behind them, the coordinators and the photographers in the field and the editors and
researchers and copyright toilers and all the staff back in the office, the Trustees past
and present, the generous donors, the Lords Lieutenant, the Master Patrons and the Series
Patrons, the Friends and, of course, our Patron, The Duchess of Cornwall. Without the
combined effort of each individual part, the whole would never have been achieved. The
Foundation’s achievement will be a lasting tribute to them all. I am truly grateful to
each and every one of them.”

Andrew Ellis, Director, the Public Catalogue Foundation, said: “No country has ever
embarked on such a monumental project to showcase its entire oil painting collection
online. Working with collections all over the land, this project reveals to the world the
UK’s extraordinary holding of oil paintings. Anyone with Internet access, anywhere in the
world, can now see them all, completely for free.”

Notes to Editors

About the Public Catalogue Foundation

The PCF is a registered charity. It was launched in 2003 to create a photographic
record of all the oil (together with acrylic and tempera) paintings in public ownership in
the United Kingdom. In addition to publishing its work online, the PCF is also publishing
a series of printed catalogues. 46 titles in the Oil Paintings in Public Ownership series
have already been published with more than 40 or so to be released over the next 12

The painstaking research to locate the paintings up and down the country and collate
the data was carried out by 50 researchers. Over 30 fine art photographers have been
employed to take photographs of these paintings over the life of the project. London-based
staff focus on fundraising, processing and editing the data that comes in from the field,
and clearing copyright.

Now that the oil painting project is complete the PCF will focus on two strategic
priorities. First, it will work on updating and enriching the oil painting records, partly
through setting up an Oil Painting Expert Network to connect collections in need of
expertise with a network of pro bono experts. Secondly, it will look to digitise other art
objects, starting with the nation’s sculpture collection.

The PCF is funded principally by grants and donations. The project to photograph and
catalogue the nation’s oil paintings will have cost just under GBP6m. Less than 15 per
cent of its funding comes from the public sector. Whilst many hundreds of individuals and
institutions have supported its work, the PCF’s principal funders for the project
throughout the UK are Arts Council England, The Art Fund, Binks Trust, Christie’s, the
Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Hiscox, ICAP, the J Paul Getty
Jnr Charitable Trust, the Monument Trust, the Scottish Government, the Stavros Niarchos
Foundation and the Wolfson Foundation.

The PCF was founded by Dr Fred Hohler in 2002. Its Trustees are Charles Gregson
(Chairman of the PCF), David Ekserdjian (Professor of Art History at the University of
Leicester), Margaret Greeves (Chair of Collections Trust), Alex Morrison (Founder and
Managing Director of Cogapp), Richard Roundell (Vice Chairman of Christie’s UK), Marc
Sands (Director of Audiences and Media at Tate), Dr Charles Saumarez Smith (Secretary and
Chief Executive of the Royal Academy), Graham Southern (Founding Director of
BlainSouthern) and the artist Alison Watt. The Director is Andrew Ellis.

For more information go to http://www.thepcf.org.uk

About BBC Online

BBC Online is BBC’s portfolio of websites, available at bbc.co.uk. It comprises 10
Products – News, Sport, Weather, CBBC, CBeebies, Knowledge & Learning, Homepage, Search,
TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music. In April 2011, it had 31.7 million unique browsers and was
the fourth most popular website in the UK. It is the only UK-owned website in the UK Top
10. Your Paintings is part of Knowledge & Learning.

The BBC creates partnerships with the arts sector that go beyond broadcast, from
sharing expertise to widening public engagement in UK arts.

Media Enquiries

For the Public Catalogue Foundation and for press images contact Laura Marriott on
+44(0)20-7395-0330 or at laura.marriott@thepcf.org.uk

For the BBC please contact Sheryl Holland on Tel: +44(0)208-225-8424 or at

SOURCE The Public Catalogue Foundation

Source: PR Newswire