Rather than write a review this week I thought I’d highlight a worthy project.
The Public Catalogue Foundation has teamed up with the BBC to digitise and catalogue all the oil paintings owned by the Nation (by us actually!), which is estimated to be about 200,000 pieces by nearly 40,000 artists. This includes all the easily accessible ones in museums and galleries, but will also include all the paintings which cannot normally be viewed by the general public. Apparently four in five of our art works cannot be easily seen, either because there is no room on the walls of our museums (so are kept in storage) or are in civic buildings that are not usually accessible.
Although oil is the predominate medium (due to its hundreds of years of use) the catalogue also includes tempera (egg based paint which was used up to the 1500 when oil took over) right up to acrylic paint (first used in the 1950’s). Apparently it does not include watercolours which seems strange and their defence of the decision not to include them comes across as a little weak to say the least:-
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.
That said, it is a fantastic project that will finally quantify a significant proportion of the art owned by the nation (many collections have not been properly recorded and photographed until now) and make it accessible to the people who actually paid for it. It is also possible to take part in this project by signing up and tagging the paintings to help categorise and make them more searchable, although I believe this will only be possible until the cataloguing has been completed. Hopefully they will move onto the nation’s watercolours after this current project has been completed.
The project has about 8% of the UK’s paintings to go and is expected to finish late 2012.