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

Blog Closure

Joseph Bell | 11:18 UK time, Tuesday, 5 March 2013

As part of ongoing changes to the BBC website, the Your Paintings blog is closing and will no longer be updated after this entry.

Thank you to everyone who has read our posts and shared comments. Going forward we will use the updates section on the homepage to point to relevant pieces on or on the website of the Public Catalogue Foundation.

This will enable us to more effectively share articles and features of interest to our audience.
You will also still be able to get updates on the project from Twitter (@Your_Paintings) and Facebook.

Thank you.

All 212,000 oil paintings in the nation's art collection are now online

Joseph Bell | 00:00 UK time, Thursday, 13 December 2012

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

Paintings at the far reaches of the UK

Katey Goodwin | 10:12 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2012

The PCF has worked with a wide variety of institutions throughout the UK, from collections in bustling, busy cities to peaceful, rural locations in the heart of the countryside. As the manager of the PCF’s large team of Coordinators, I have visited many of these locations and have travelled the same amount of miles as it takes to circumnavigate the earth, not once, but twice!

The PCF’s most northerly destination was the island of Unst, the northernmost of the Shetland Islands and the location, Unst Heritage Centre. The centre is managed by Unst Heritage Trust and they hold just two oil paintings, both portraits, of Reverend James Ingram (1776–1879) and his wife Mary Barclay Ingram (1776–1859).

Reverend James Ingram (1776-1879), Free Church Minister (1843-1879) (unknown artist, Collection: Unst Heritage Trust)

Travel 1,000 miles south from Unst and we reach our most southerly collection, which is not strictly in the UK. The Channel Islands, like the Isle of Man, are crown dependencies, with their own government and money. Jersey is the most southerly of the Channel Islands, lying just 14 miles west of the coast of France. On a rocky islet in St Aubin's Bay stands Elizabeth Castle.

Elizabeth Castle, managed by Jersey Heritage, is accessible at low tide by foot or by the castle ferry. A small number of Jersey Heritage’s paintings are on display in the castle, mainly military portraits, including that of General Don (1756–1832), who was Governor of Jersey from 1806 to 1814.

General Don (1756-1832) (George Watson, Collection: Jersey Heritage)

Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Museum, catalogued by our Suffolk Coordinator, Alan Grundy, is located close to Ness Point, officially the most easterly point in the UK. The Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Society was established in 1958, and the volunteer-run museum opened in 1968.

Unsurprisingly, its art collection mainly consists of paintings of ships at sea and scenes associated with maritime life, including a dramatic work by Rowland Fisher (1885–1969) of the trawler 'Trinidad' LT210 battling through stormy seas.

'Trinidad' LT210 (Rowland Fisher, Collection: Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Museum)

Five hundred miles west of Lowestoft, in Northern Ireland, is Fermanagh County Museum. Housed within Enniskillen Castle, beside the River Erne, the museum is our most westerly collection. The County Museum holds a large collection on artefacts relating to the history, culture and environment of Fermanagh, including a collection of oil paintings, catalogued by our Northern Ireland Coordinator, Alison Mitchelson.

The museum’s paintings include works by the artist Terence Philip Flanagan (1929–2011) who was born and raised in Enniskillen.

The Saloon at Castle Coole (Terence Philip Flanagan, Collection: Fermanagh County Museum)

These four museums, at the geographical extremes of the UK, are typical of most of the collections we have worked with throughout the project. Their art collections relate to the people and places of the locality and document the history, geography and culture of our islands.

You can read the full feature on the PCF's website.

Katey Goodwin is Head of Research and Digitisation for the PCF

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