About Your Paintings
Your Paintings is a website which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.
Your Paintings is a joint initiative between the BBC, the Public Catalogue Foundation (a registered charity) and participating collections and museums from across the UK.
There are an estimated 212,000 oil paintings in the UK's national collection. To give a sense of the scale of the collection, the National Gallery in London has around 2,300 oil paintings. So it's nearly one hundred times the size of that.
The collection includes works by some of the greatest painters of the last 700 years, as well as paintings by thousands of lesser known artists. It offers a remarkable insight into the history, landscape and culture of the United Kingdom.
Paintings owned by the state and local authorities together with those held in charitable trusts for the benefit of the public make up the national collection shown on the Your Paintings website. In addition, a small number of important collections that are not in public ownership nor normally open to the public are also being included. For example this will include paintings in Bishop’s palaces and Oxford and Cambridge colleges.
Local authority and national museum collections make up the majority of the institutions represented. Paintings held by universities, hospitals, town halls, local libraries and even a lighthouse are also on the site. The site also includes collections held by national organisations such the National Trust, English Heritage, the Government Art Collection and Arts Council England.
At any one time around 80% of the paintings in the national collection are not on public display. They might be being conserved or repaired, in storage (because of limited display space), or in a part of a building that the public cannot easily access.
Where we can, we’ve identified exactly where you can see a painting, but in many cases the paintings are moved around too frequently for us to keep accurate information. In these cases, if you really want to see a painting, it’s important to check with the relevant gallery or collection before making your visit.
In total the site displays works by over 37,000 artists. Whilst the majority of these are British artists, a good number are from other countries, including many well-known names such as Monet, Raphael and Van Gogh.
We expect that all oil paintings in the national collection will eventually be listed on this site.
For almost all of the paintings on the site there will be a photograph. Where there is not a photograph this may be because the painting was not available at the time of photography, either because it was being restored or, in a few instances, was missing. Alternatively, the lack of photograph might be for copyright reasons.
Actually it is not just oil paintings. We have also included works painted in tempera and acrylic. Tempera is an egg-based pigment that predates oil paints, so many of these paintings are the oldest in the collection. Acrylic is a more modern synthetic paint. Mixed media paintings which includes oil or acrylic have also been included.
Your Paintings focuses on oil painting for two reasons. First, because oil was the preferred medium of most well-known artists for hundreds of years. Secondly, whilst the number of watercolours and drawings in the national collection is in the millions, the size of the oil painting collection is a practical proposition to digitise in its entirety.
Where paintings are missing or have been stolen, the best possible photograph on record has been reproduced. In some cases this may be black and white.
When paintings are being conserved or repaired, they may have conservation tissue attached to the painting surface. The tissue was not removed when the paintings were photographed, as that would have damaged the paintings.
Paintings end up in public collections either through people giving or leaving paintings to the collections or through the collections purchasing paintings.
The only way to do this is to make a gift of a painting to a participating public collection such as a local museum. If your gift is accepted, as long as the painting is in oil (or acrylic or tempera), in due course it will be catalogued by the Public Catalogue Foundation and will appear on the Your Paintings website.
Yes, you can help us by tagging paintings at the Public Catalogue Foundation’s Tagger project.
The core data about individual paintings and collections on the site comes from the BBC’s partner on the project, the Public Catalogue Foundation. The Public Catalogue Foundation in turn collects this information from the galleries and collections that own the paintings.
Some of the information about artists' birth and death dates and nationality comes from ULAN (the Union List of Artists Names ®), under licence from the J. Paul Getty Trust.
If you know anything about a painting that has no or limited information, then please click on the ‘Art Detective’ link in the right hand panel on the page for that painting. Your feedback will be passed to the institution that owns the painting and investigated, until hopefully it ends up back on the site as new information. Please be aware that given limited staff resources in many of the collections, only those suggestions that are adopted may receive a response.
What do I do if I’ve spotted a mistake in the information about one of the paintings, artists, galleries or collections?
Most of the information on the site comes from the BBC's partners on project, the Public Catalogue Foundation. If you find any information on this page to be wrongly displayed, factually incorrect or offensive, please contact us.
Why is some of the information about paintings presented differently from the way it is shown on the websites of the institutions that own them?
Information about paintings, such as painting titles, has been standardised across the project, which may result in some discrepancies in terminology or presentation.
If you are a publicly funded gallery or collection, and you believe that you should be represented on the site, please contact the Public Catalogue Foundation directly.
The BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation are committed to respecting the intellectual property rights of others. All images are covered by the BBC's standard terms and conditions.
Each image is also protected with a secure invisible digital watermark that allows the Public Catalogue Foundation and other copyright owners to identify and track any unauthorised use of the image.
The Public Catalogue Foundation is responsible for seeking permission to show works on the Your Paintings website from the museums and other collections that own the paintings, as well as from the artists and estates where the underlying works are still in copyright. Any queries regarding permissions should be addressed to the PCF. Please see the Public Catalogue Foundation's website for more information.
At present only those galleries operating their own print on demand function have a link to their site on the painting page for their paintings. Very soon PCF will be offering this feature on behalf of the other galleries.
In regards to valuations and information about privately owned paintings, we are sorry but this is not something that the BBC or our data partners the Public Catalogue Foundation have the expertise or resources to help with.
However if you are looking to have a work valued, you should go to any reputable auction house. For identification and further information some local museums may offer this service.
Some paintings are purchased jointly by two or more collections. As more than one collection owns the painting it could be at either location. As such, the painting will appear on all owning collections’ pages on Your Paintings.
Tags are user-generated terms produced by the Your Paintings Tagger.
The tagger is a site that allows anyone to classify a selection of paintings in a variety of ways. By undertaking this process and associating a wide selection of words and terms with certain paintings, 'taggers' are helping other users to be able search the nation's art collection in a more sophisticated and helpful manner.
The site is set up so that each painting will be tagged many times by members of the public. Algorithms behind the scenes will calculate which tags are likely to be the most accurate and these are then fed through to the Your Paintings website. The algorithms have been created for the Public Catalogue Foundation by the Citizen Science Alliance based at the Astrophysics Department at the University of Oxford, with input from the Art History Department at the University of Glasgow.
If you want to help with the project, you can start tagging paintings yourself at http://tagger.thepcf.org.uk
We rely on the public to generate the tags that appear on the site. By providing this extra information, you are helping the nation’s collection of oil paintings to be searched by all our users in a more sophisticated and helpful manner.
However this is clearly a massive task, and to ensure the quality of the data, a certain number of people must have ‘tagged’ a specific painting before those tags are added to the site. Therefore, until every painting has been fully tagged, only a subset of the collection on Your Paintings will have these user-generated tags.
If you want to help with the project, you can start tagging paintings yourself at http://tagger.thepcf.org.uk
My Paintings is a tool that allows you to select, comment and share paintings chosen from the thousands of works in the national collection.
1. To add a painting to your collection, click on the ‘Add to my collection’ button underneath the painting on the right hand side.
Find paintings to add
3. When signed in, you should see a confirmation box with a smaller version of the painting. Here you can add your own comments to the painting. Anyone who views your collection with will be able to see them. These comments will be moderated for inappropriate language or content.
4. Confirm or cancel your selection.
5. You can now continue to add more paintings, or you can preview your My Paintings collection by clicking on the My Paintings tab in the navigation bar.
6. You can add and delete paintings or edit your comments at anytime. My Painting will let you store up to a hundred paintings.
Your My Paintings collection can be shared by using the 'share' buttons on the My Painting page, which you can access by clicking on the My Paintings tab in the navigation bar.
You can also send a link to your collection, by copying the URL at the top of the browser. For more information on sharing, please see sharing stories from the BBC.
Sharing your My Paintings collection will be subject to any other terms or conditions which apply to your use of the relevant social networking service.
- (?) – there is uncertainty about this information
tags – These are user-generated terms, associated with a painting. Tags will only appear for a painting once enough people have tagged it using the Your Paintings Tagger tool. You can tag paintings yourself at http://tagger.thepcf.org.uk
C – century
c. – circa, meaning ‘approximately’
early century – beginning of a century (years ’00 to ’29)
mid-century – middle of a century (years ’30 to ’69)
late century – end of a century (years ’70 to ’99)
b. – born
d. – died
dimensions – size of unframed painting, given in height then width, in centimetres
(E) – estimated size of painting
(P) – on loan from a private source
acquisition method – the means by which the painting has entered the collection
commissioned – the artist was requested to produce the painting for a specific place or purpose
recto – front of painting
verso – reverse of painting
diptych – painting consisting of two sections: left panel and right panel. The panels are sometimes joined by hinges.
triptych – painting consisting of three sections: centre panel, left wing and right wing. The panels are sometimes joined by hinges.
polyptych – painting consisting of a number of panels
predella – Italian word for the long horizontal structure at the bottom of an altarpiece
medium – binds particles of pigment together, e.g. oil, acrylic or tempera, to make paint. The type of medium, and ratio of medium to pigment, have an impact on the effects that can be achieved with the paint.
oil – paint made by mixing pigment with oil. Oil paint dries slowly, and allows artists to achieve a broader and more detailed application of paint, which enables a wide range of optical effects to be achieved. It was first used in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Northern Europe, before becoming more widely used in the fifteenth century.
acrylic – paint containing pigment combined with acrylic polymer emulsion. First used in the 1950s, it is fairly fast-drying and is popular with artists today.
tempera – paint made by combining pigment with a medium, such as egg, glue, honey, water, milk and a variety of plant gums. Tempera most often refers to egg tempera.
egg tempera – paint made combining pigment with egg yolk. Egg tempera has been used since Antiquity and was commonly used in early Italian painting, before oil paint became widely-used.
support – surface a painting has been made on, e.g. canvas or board
canvas – common painting support. It consists of strong unbleached cloth, which is normally coated with gesso (a white mineral) before being painted on.
active dates – dates during which an artist was known to be working
unknown artist – identity of the artist is not known
School – group of artists or paintings of the same geographical origin and with stylistic similarities, e.g. British School, French School
Master of – the identity of the artist is not known but paintings by the same hand have been identified. These artists are often named after their most famous works, e.g. Master of the Barbara Legend, or the place where they worked, e.g. Master of Delft.
after – a direct imitation of an original painting, made at a later date
assistant – someone who worked in the artist's studio
and assistants – by the artist, made with help from his assistants
associate of – by someone who had links to the artist, but was not in their studio
attributed to – thought to have been painted by the artist, but there is a degree of uncertainty
by or after – either by the artist or a direct imitation of the artist’s style, made at a later date
by or follower of – either by the artist or by someone who admired them and imitated their style, but was not necessarily a pupil
circle of – by an artist closely associated with the master artist, but who did not work in their studio
copy after – repetition of another painting, generally made after the artist’s lifetime, or by an artist outside their studio
copy of – repetition of another painting
follower of – by someone who admired the artist and imitated their style, but was not necessarily a pupil
forgery – imitation of a painting, intended to deceive
imitator of – by someone who admired the artist and their style, but was probably working at a much later date
possibly – thought to be by the artist, but this is uncertain
pupil of – by someone who trained within the studio or workshop of the artist, often profoundly influenced by the artist's style
school of – by pupils in the studio of an artist, but probably with no direct guidance from the artist
student of – by someone who trained within the studio or workshop of the artist, often profoundly influenced by the artist's style
studio of – by assistants or pupils who worked in the artist’s studio, probably under the direction and guidance of the artist
and studio – by the artist, with assistance from his studio
studio copy – by pupils in imitation of the master artist. Pupils often copied the artist’s most famous works in order to disseminate copies.
style of – by someone painting in a manner that resembles the artist