Public collections in need of information about their oil paintings can be connected with specialists and members of the public with relevant knowledge thanks to a scheme called Art Detective.
It has been launched by the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF),
the group behind the Your Paintings website jointly created with the
BBC to give free online access to more than 210,000 oil paintings
held in public collections across the UK.
Art Detective, backed by various trade experts, such as art
historian and dealer Bendor Grosvenor (from Philip Mould & Co)
and Andre Zlattinger, senior director, Scottish Art at Christie's,
aims to plug the gaps and identify sitters, places and events
depicted in the paintings as well as reveal the unknown artists
The PCF say it addresses "the serious issue of insufficient
specialist knowledge within public art collections. It is available
to all 3000 or so collections that participate in Your
Paintings. The vast majority of these participating
collections - many of which are not museums - do not have fine art
PCF editors can refer certain questions through the Art
Detective section of Your Paintings to public discussions, attached
to 'groups' with a specialist interest such as portraits or
military subjects. It launches with 12 groups but this will
Each group has a 'leader' appointed by an expert panel who is
responsible for monitoring and directing discussions. The PCF then
send their conclusions to the collection that owns the painting -
but the collection has the final say on whether to accept that
Dr Grosvenor was on the steering panel for the project and will
also be the group leader for British 16th and 17th century
portraiture. On his Art History News website, he said: "Of the
over 200,000 pictures in the UK's collection, some one in five has
either no attribution or an uncertain attribution. For thousands
more we have other questions, such as where is the landscape, who
is the sitter, and so on. Art Detective is designed to help solve
some of these mysteries, and will prove a valuable support for
institutions struggling to open up their collections to expertise
in these days of increasing funding constraints."
The PCF have also announced that, subject to
funding, Your Paintings could be followed by Your
Sculptures, after a partnership was agreed with the Public
Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA). Along the same lines,
it would create one comprehensive, searchable, digital database of
sculpture in the UK from the 11th century onwards in public
collections, freely available to the public.
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