Your paintings Uncovering the nation's art collection In association with The Public Catalogue Foundation

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.

Who is behind Your Paintings?

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.

How big is the UK national collection of oil paintings?

There are over 200,000 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.

What qualifies a painting to be in the UK national collection?

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.

Can I go to see all of the paintings on the site in real life?

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.

Are all the paintings by UK artists?

There are over 37,000 artists represented on the site. 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.

Are there any paintings in the national collection that aren’t on the 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.

Why only oil paintings? Why not watercolours as well?

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.

Why are some paintings shown in black and white, and some obscured by pieces of paper?

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.

How do paintings end up in public collections?

Paintings end up in public collections either through people giving or leaving paintings to the collections or through the collections purchasing paintings.

Can I contribute my own paintings to Your 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.

Can I get involved in this project?

Yes, you can help us by tagging paintings at the Public Catalogue Foundation’s Tagger project.

Where does the information on the site come from?

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.

Tags displayed on the site providing keywords and subject classifications for paintings are generated by the Your Paintings Tagger initiative, run by our partners, the Public Catalogue Foundation

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.

Who do I contact if I know something about a painting on the site that has no information?

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.

We are a publicly funded gallery or collection and we aren’t on the site.

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. It is possible that they have recently started work in your region.

Can I buy prints of paintings on the Your Paintings website?

You can print off low-res versions of all the paintings. In some cases you will be able to buy prints either through the relevant gallery’s site, or through the PCF website.

What can I do with the images on the Your Paintings site?

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.

Images and data associated with the works may be reproduced for non-commercial research and private study purposes.

Any queries regarding permissions should be addressed to the museum or collection owning the work. Two sets of permissions are required if the artist is alive, or has been dead for less than 70 years (one from the collection, which retains copyright of the photographic image, and one from the rights holder of the painting). Permission is required solely from the collection if the artist has been dead for more than 70 years.

In very rare cases, photo copyright is held elsewhere; please check the photo copyright byline to be certain that it is held by the collection. Please see the PCF's website for more information.

Can Your Paintings help with valuations or identification of privately owned paintings?

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.

Have you got a glossary of terms used on the site?

Yes - we have a glossary and also a guide to artistic styles and movements.

I'm a teacher. Is there anything I can use on the site?

We have a number of resources created especially for teachers to use the classroom, including curriculum-based slide-shows and a guide to careers in the art world, with contributions from the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins and Tim Wonnacott from BBC Bargain Hunt. There's also a comprehensive guide to artistic styles and movements.

What is My Paintings?

My Paintings is a tool that allows you to select, comment and share paintings chosen from the thousands of works in the national collection.

How do I add or remove paintings from my My Paintings 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

2. If you aren’t signed in to BBC iD then you will be prompted to sign in or register. BBC iD allows you to use all BBC personalisation services such as iPlayer or message boards.

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.

For more information on privacy, please see BBC iD and our Terms of Use.

How do I share My Paintings with my friends?

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.