Entertainment & Arts

Public paintings quest completed

Michael J Browne, The Art of the Game 1997, oil on canvas, National Football Museum/© artist Michael Browne
Image caption Michael Browne's The Art of the Game is at the National Football Museum
Thomas Webster, Football Game 1839, oil on canvas, National Football Museum
Image caption Football Game, from 1839, is one of 40 Thomas Webster paintings catalogued
Hogarth altar-piece in offices of Bristol and Regions Archaeology Services
Image caption This Hogarth triptych sits in the offices of Bristol Archaeology Services
Norman Taylor photographing at Artemis School Loans Scheme in Leeds
Image caption Photographers have visited dozens of galleries, museums and other collections

A mission to photograph all 210,000 oil paintings in public ownership in the UK has come to an end.

The Public Catalogue Foundation has spent a decade photographing artworks in museums, galleries, universities, councils and hospitals.

Only around 20% are ever on show at once but the entire collection is being made available on the BBC Your Paintings website.

The final photos have been taken at Manchester's National Football Museum.

The paintings there range from a 10ft (3m) depiction of former Manchester United footballer Eric Cantona as Christ by Michael Browne, to Thomas Webster's image of a rural game of football in 1839.

Public Catalogue Foundation director Andrew Ellis recently told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Art is made to be seen and we as a nation have a wonderful public art collection.

"But about 80% of these paintings are not on public view. Collections and museums just do not have the space to show all of those paintings.

"And at the same time, the vast majority, probably two thirds of these paintings, have not been photographed. So this project changes that."

Nuclear bunker

The full catalogue of 210,000 paintings by 45,000 artists is due to be online by mid-December.

The artists range from Leonardo Da Vinci to LS Lowry and the locations of artworks include fire stations, courts, libraries, a former nuclear bunker, London Zoo and a lighthouse - as well as major museums and art galleries.

Early works by leading artists, including David Hockney, Chris Ofili and Tracey Emin, have also been found in the collection of the Royal College of Art.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: "The inclusion of the National Football Museum's 54 paintings marks the completion of an ambitious project that is a world first.

"Never before has an entire nation's oil paintings been made available online."

The foundation is now considering moving on to catalogue the country's sculpture collection.

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