Tuesday - 23 September 2014

The ultimate British gallery is now up and running online

12 January 2013Written by Tom Derbyshire

It features nearly 212,000 oil paintings, created by 37,000 artists, including 391 works by Joshua Reynolds, 348 by Turner, 281 by Gainsborough, 273 by Walter Sickert, 189 by Stanley Spencer and 114 by Van Dyck. And it is available to view online – for free.

The last upload of 40,000 paintings in December signalled the completion of the Public Catalogue Foundation's ambitious project to take photographs of all the oil paintings held in public ownership in the UK and show them via the BBC's Your Paintings website.

The PCF began its mammoth task in 2003 and Your Paintings was launched by the BBC in June 2011, covering not only museums and galleries but also universities, councils, hospitals and even fire stations, zoos and a lighthouse. Typically, 80% of these paintings are not usually on view to the public and the vast majority have never been photographed in this way.

It is a charity and supporters include Christie's along with dealers Blain Southern, Hauser & Wirth, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Liss Fine Art, Lisson Gallery, Philip Mould & Company, Richard Green Gallery and Simon C. Dickinson.

The PCF are eager to get more art experts and dealers involved, not least because there are still about 30,000 paintings that do not have firm artist attributions and many portrait sitters have not been identified.

The next step, depending on funding, could be to cover sculpture in public collections - but it seems there are too many watercolours to be covered.

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