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.
Sean Connery as a life model (Alistair Fairweather, Collection: ECA part of University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection)
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 Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838 (Joseph Mallord William Turner, Collection: The National Gallery, London)
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 ten 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.
Adapted from press release